The AP No. 2-ranked Florida Gators avenged their recent upset against over-matched Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi State, trouncing the Bulldogs 83-58 on Saturday.
The Gators' standout senior trio keyed the team to victory, which improved the team to 11-0 at home.
Mike Rosario led the way, putting up a game-high 18 points in making seven of his 10 field goal attempts. Versatile big man Erik Murphy had 17 points of his own for the Gators. Leading scorer Kenny Boynton struggled from beyond the arc, but poured in 10 points and added six assists.
Turnovers crushed the Bulldogs, as they gave it away 16 times and never got into a rhythm on either end of the court. Freshman forward Gavin Ware led the offensive charge with 16 points.
Bulldogs junior guard Jalen Steele averages 9.3 points per game, which is fourth on the Bulldogs' team that struggles mightily to score as it is. He was unavailable, though, suspended indefinitely by head coach Rick Ray earlier this week, according to a report by Marcello.
But even Steele's presence wouldn't have given the Bulldogs much of a chance to steal a victory in Gainesville.
The Gators held a 16-point advantage at halftime at 42-26, and the lead only ballooned from there. A 10-0 run to begin the second half dismissed any notions of a Mississippi State comeback.
Florida showed no signs of slowing down in this one despite the absence of Will Yeguete, the team's best paint enforcer and second-leading rebounder (h/t ESPN).
Although the Gators are set to drop in the rankings after the aforementioned loss at Arkansas, this was a strong return to form for Billy Donovan's talented squad. It remains to be seen how severe Murphy's late-game injury is and how it will impact the team moving forward.
UF moves to 18-3 and 9-1 in the SEC, while the Bulldogs' eighth consecutive loss still leaves them just 2-8 in conference play and 7-15 overall.
As hinted at above, Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun tweeted out some bad news for Gator fans near the end of the game concerning Murphy:
Erik Murphy taken into the locker room with 4 minutes left with undisclosed injury.— Kevin Brockway (@gatorhoops) February 9, 2013
In the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, this contest was a mismatch from the beginning. Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger highlighted the adversity the Bulldogs were facing even before the opening tip:
Jalen Steele's suspension means Mississippi State has only 6 scholarship players available at No. 2 Florida. UF beat MSU by 35 in Jan.— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) February 9, 2013
Chris Harry of GatorZone.com noticed Yeguete on the bench, sticking with his teammates despite his recent setback:
Will Yeguete w/team on bench. Successful knee surgery Fri. Cleaned out 3 cartilage chips in knee (1 on side, 1 behind were causing pain).— Chris Harry (@GatorZoneChris) February 9, 2013
CatsIllustrated.com's Aaron Smith points out the ramifications of Florida's victory:
Florida crushing Mississippi State right now. As it stands, winner of Tuesday's UK-Florida game will take over first place in the SEC.— Aaron Smith (@ASmithRivals) February 9, 2013