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Woebegone Gators drop 13th straight

If nothing else, the Florida basketball team is keeping things interesting. With every loss, the Gators seem to reach a new level of humiliation and continue to attack some of the most dubious honors in Florida archives.

On Wednesday, it was a 79-54 loss to Mississippi State.

In this most recent bungle, Gator fans saw:

The most lopsided defeat at home in nine years.

Florida's 13th straight loss, one off the school record and three away from the Southeastern Conference record.

Their team clinch a tie for last place in the SEC, just one year after Florida won its first-ever conference championship.

"It's embarrassing. It hurts," said freshman forward Stacey Poole, who led the Gators with 17 points Wednesday.

"If we don't win any more games, we're going to go down in Gator history as one of the sorriest teams ever."

The 4,821 fans at the O'Connell Center would probably agree with Poole after Wednesday's performance.

Two days after blowing a 13-point lead against Miami in the final six minutes, the Gators (6-18 overall and 2-13 in the SEC) had a chance to redeem themselves with their first home win in more than a month.

Mississippi State, after all, is hardly a power in the SEC. The Bulldogs (13-11 overall and 6-10 in the league) came into the game just one notch above UF and the conference cellar.

Yet Florida made Mississippi State look like a championship-caliber team as the Gators were outscored 50-28 in the second half.

"We look at ourselves with the same questions after every game and we have the same answers," said junior guard Renaldo Garcia. "We're just not playing hard enough to win."

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Gators are extremely close to their first 20-loss season in nine years.

Since losing three starters in January, the Gators have tried to combat their inexperience and lack of talent by slowing the tempo of the game.

They tried it again Wednesday and they got the same old results: an inspired first half and an insipid second half.

With a mixture of hustle and patience, Florida was just a long shot away from Mississippi State's 29-26 lead at halftime.

But the Bulldogs put the game away quickly in the second half with a 29-12 spurt.