GAINESVILLE — Heading into Monday night's game against Mississippi Valley State, Florida was in an identical situation to one that turned out badly last season: A big win over a ranked opponent, a 48-hour turnaround, then a terrible loss to a lesser opponent.
Last year it was a victory over No. 6 Kansas State then a loss to Jacksonville. Florida coach Billy Donovan made a point on the bus ride home from Sunrise and a win over Texas A&M on Saturday to remind his team of recent history.
"I talked to those guys about that, we're in the same exact situation," Donovan said. "Is history going to repeat itself or are you guys going to change that?"
No repeat Monday night.
No. 11 Florida (9-2) shot 48 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from 3-point range in an 82-54 victory over Mississippi Valley State (1-9). Florida led 24-4 with 13:22 left in the first half and never trailed.
"We had the mentality we wanted to put them away early and that's what we did," said freshman guard Bradley Beal, who had 13 points and six rebounds.
With junior guard Mike Rosario out with a chronic lower back injury and forward Cody Larson out with strep throat, Donovan allowed walk-on Jacob Kurtz to suit up. With 2:06 remaining in the game, Kurtz went to the free-throw line with this on the line: make both and Donovan would cancel today's practice. Kurtz hit both, setting off a wild celebration on the Gators' bench.
"He knocked them down like a champion," said sophomore Patric Young, who had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. "I'm really happy for him. He's worked really hard. He started as a manager with us last year and he came to everything. He wasn't even like a full-fledged manager. He just came and watched practices, came to 6 a.m. workouts, and a year later he's in the game scoring his first two points."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]