STARKVILLE, Miss. – Casey Prather scored 16 points, Patric Young added 12 and No. 3 Florida beat Mississippi State 62-51 Thursday night for its 12th straight win.
The Gators (18-2, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) had a slow start on offense, but made up for it with suffocating defense. It was the 12th time this season Florida held an opponent to 60 points or fewer.
Florida’s Michael Frazier II had just nine points, but his three 3-pointers helped the Gators keep a comfortable lead throughout most of the second half.
Mississippi State (13-7, 3-4) lost for the first time at home during conference play. The Bulldogs have lost four straight to the Gators.
Colin Borchert scored 15 and Craig Sword 12 for Mississippi State.
Both teams had a rough night at the free throw line. Florida was 8 of 19 (35.3 percent) and Mississippi State 1 of 6 (42.1 percent).
Chris Walker, Florida’s touted 6-foot-10 freshman forward, is expected to make his college debut on Tuesday against Missouri after being cleared by the NCAA. His arrival will give the Gators some much needed frontcourt depth.
But Young was enough on Thursday. The powerful 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior was a consistent presence on both ends of the court, providing timely baskets and post defense.
Prather went to the locker room briefly in the first half with an apparent injury, but returned to shoot 7 of 8 from the field. His baseline drive and dunk gave the Gators a 55-42 lead with five minutes left that helped put the game away.
Mississippi State had an 11-1 record at Humphrey Coliseum coming into Thursday’s game and was tough once again on its home floor.
Florida was in control for most of the first half, jumping out to a 27-18 lead with 5:18 remaining.
But Mississippi State’s Tyson Cunningham made an off-balance 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to spark an 8-0 run, and I.J. Ready’s layup a few seconds before the buzzer pulled the Bulldogs to 27-26.
Florida was coming off a dominant defensive performance in a 67-41 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, and the team’s length and athleticism also gave the Bulldogs problems. But the Gators couldn’t hit shots – making just 10 of 27 (37 percent) from the field in the first half.
Nothing was easy. Young hit a couple inside buckets early in the second half and Prather’s layup at the rim gave the Gators a 42-32 advantage with 12:05 remaining.
Mississippi State had a couple of good moments in the second half, but Florida’s superior depth, size and athleticism proved too much to overcome. Ready added 10 points for the Bulldogs.