GAINESVILLE — Fresh off a humbling loss at Arkansas, and with a big-time game against Kentucky looming Tuesday night, No. 2 Florida got solid support from its reserves and capitalized on exceptional first-half 3-point shooting to earn an 83-58 victory over Mississippi State at sold-out O'Connell Center on Saturday.
"You need a get-back game sometimes," senior guard Kenny Boynton said. "We did a lot of good things (Saturday). We had 21 assists, and when you have that and are hitting open shots like we were, we're going to be hard to beat. We haven't seen a lot of Kentucky yet, but we'll be focused and ready."
The Gators (19-3, 9-1 SEC) got great help from freshman guard Michael Frazier II of Tampa and junior forward Casey Prather, who will be relied upon more because junior forward Will Yeguete is out with a knee injury.
Florida missed its first five 3-pointers, then hit 5-of-6 on the way to a 31-16 lead with 7:36 left in the first half. Frazier hit 3-pointers on three of five possessions to help extend the lead.
Frazier got his first career start in place of junior guard Scottie Wilbekin, whom coach Billy Donovan said was benched for a lack of energy and enthusiasm in practice the past week.
"I was just trying to come in and help any way I can," said Frazier, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds. "My role is to bring energy to this team, and if that's starting or coming off the bench, that's what I'm going to try to do."
Prather, recovering from a high ankle sprain, had a season-high 12 points, five rebounds, one block and one steal.
"I just know I have to bring more energy to the table," Prather said.
Donovan said he was pleased with the way the Gators rebounded from Tuesday's loss but said they still need to improve, particularly on defense.
"We've got to get even more focused defensively than we've been," he said. "Looking down the stat sheet against Mississippi State (7-15, 2-8), who has struggled to score, they got right around their average, and they ended up shooting around 46 percent in the second half. That's too high of a percentage. So we've got to see where we made some mistakes, and I think some guys have got to grow and get better."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.