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Gators lose third straight in basketball

UF falls apart in the second half against Mississippi State.
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry, shown in action Saturday against Oklahoma City, goes into Gainesville on Tuesday and has a career game against the Gators. [KYLE PHILLIPS   |  AP]
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry, shown in action Saturday against Oklahoma City, goes into Gainesville on Tuesday and has a career game against the Gators. [KYLE PHILLIPS | AP]
Published Jan. 29

GAINESVILLE —Reggie Perry scored a career-high 27, Robert Woodard added 16 and Mississippi State beat Florida 78-71, the Gators’ third straight loss.

Tyson Carter chipped in 12, including seven straight points to turn the game in the second half. The Bulldogs (13-7, 4-3) rallied from 16 down.

Florida (12-8, 4-3) shot 58 percent in the first half, making 8 of 14 3-pointers.

But Mississippi State whittled the lead behind Perry and really took over after intermission. The Bulldogs made 12 of their first 17 shots in the second half to help build a comfortable lead.

“It was one of the strangest games I’ve been a part of in terms of how different each half was, both offensively and defensively,” Florida coach Mike White said. “They had their way with us in the second half.”

Florida had no answer for Perry inside or out. The 250-pound sophomore made 9 of 14 shots, including all three 3-pointers. He also was 6 of 7 from the free-throw line to go with eight rebounds.

Perry tied his previous career high (26) last week against Arkansas, but was even better in Gainesville. Nick Weatherspoon also reached double figures for State, finishing with 13 points and eight assists.

Scottie Lewis led Florida with a career-high 17 points, including 10 in the first five minutes of the game. Kerry Blackshear added 13 points and seven rebounds.

Florida had chances down the stretch. Trailing 70-66 with about three minutes remaining, Keyontae Johnson missed a layup from point-blank range and Noah Locke dribbled off his foot on the following possession.

Woodard made a 3 to extend the lead back to seven.

Florida led by as many as 16 in what was one of its best halves of the season. The freshmen were particularly on point.

Lewis, starting for the first time in three weeks, scored 10 of Florida’s first 12 points. He finished the half with 13 points and tied his previous career high on the first possession of the second half.

Fellow freshman Tre Mann made two 3-pointers in the opening half. Ques Glover made both of his shots, and big man Omar Payne did a little bit of everything off the bench.

The Gators were up 36-20 with six minutes to play in the half, then Blackshear picked up his second foul a minute later. Perry took over, scoring eight down the stretch and getting the Bulldogs back in the game.

The Gators paid tribute to late NBA star Kobe Bryant by draping two replica No. 24 Lakers jerseys over seats along its bench during warmups. The jerseys were removed just before the tip.

Florida next visits Vanderbilt at 8 Saturday.

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