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Gators beat Mississippi State, stay perfect in SEC

Patric Young, looking for a shot against Colin Borchert, has a strong game on both ends as the Gators extend their SEC lead.

Associated Press

Patric Young, looking for a shot against Colin Borchert, has a strong game on both ends as the Gators extend their SEC lead.

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Florida's 3-point shooting was mediocre and its free-throw percentage was brutal.

But when the offense is inconsistent, the third-ranked Gators are still one of the nation's most dominant teams thanks to a defense that never quits.

Casey Prather scored 16, Patric Young added 12 and Florida beat Mississippi State 62-51 Thursday night for its 12th straight victory.

"We can't always control the ball going in the basket," Young said, "but we can control our energy on the defensive end."

And that energy was intense the entire night. Mississippi State was a respectable 23-of-54 (42.6 percent) from the field but had to work hard on every possession.

The Bulldogs briefly took a 31-30 lead early in the second half on Gavin Ware's layup, but the Gators (18-2, 7-0 SEC) responded with a 16-4 run to extend its conference lead to two games over Kentucky and Ole Miss.

It was the 12th time this season UF held an opponent to 60 points or fewer.

Florida coach Billy Donovan said the key to stopping Mississippi State was keeping it off the free-throw line. The Bulldogs had 117 combined free-throw attempts in three SEC home games this season. They were just 1-of-6 on Thursday.

"A huge key was if we could defend them off the bounce and not foul," Donovan said. "I thought we did a good job there."

Florida's Michael Frazier missed his first six 3-pointers, but the sophomore from Tampa made his last three to help the Gators keep a comfortable lead throughout most of the second half.

"When he's open, I want him shooting," Donovan said.

The Gators made 6 of 20 3-pointers (30 percent) and 8 of 19 free throws (42.1 percent).

Mississippi State (13-7, 3-4) lost for the first time at home during conference play. The Bulldogs have lost four straight to the Gators. Colin Borchert scored 15 for Mississippi State.

The Gators have a quick turnaround, hosting Texas A&M on Saturday (4 p.m., Ch. 38). Then Chris Walker, Florida's touted 6-foot-10 freshman forward, is expected to make his debut in Tuesday's home game against Missouri after being cleared by the NCAA.

Walker will provide needed frontcourt depth, but Young was more than enough Thursday. The senior provided timely baskets and post defense.

"No disrespect to Mississippi State, but they're probably not going to win an SEC champion­ship this year," Young said. "We have an opportunity to do that, and we need to play to a champion­ship level."

Gators beat Mississippi State, stay perfect in SEC 01/30/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 30, 2014 11:17pm]
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