GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Mississippi State came up empty on a pair of last-second shots in a Southeastern Conference road loss at Florida.
After battling the Gators to the wire, the Bulldogs’ slide continued with a hard-fought 81-78 loss in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Bulldogs held possession down a single point twice in the final 20 seconds but missed a pair of shots in the lane. MSU tried to overcome three foul outs in the post area.
Florida improved to 12-6 overall and 4-2 in league play, while MSU fell to 7-10 and 0-5.
“Gavin (Ware), Johnny (Zuppardo) and Aric (Holman) all fouled out in 42 minutes,” MSU head coach Ben Howland said. “Our kids played their hearts out. It was disappointing that we can’t see them rewarded with a win. I.J. (Ready) had a great game. (Craig Sword) had a great second half. (Quinndary Weatherspoon) played well but he was really winded there at the end.”
Ready had 20 points for MSU, while Sword added 17 points, Weatherspoon added 14 points and Malik Newman added 12 points.
MSU sprinted to an early 7-3 lead before Florida battled back for an 11-11 tie. The teams then remained nip and tuck until Florida scored six straight points for a 26-20 lead.
Florida continued to hold the upper hand, running the lead to 36-29 with 2:54 left. MSU responded with eight straight points by Ready for a 37-36 lead.
A 3-pointer by Fred Thomas as the half expired put the Maroon and White on top 42-37.
Florida battled back within three at 48-45 in the early stages of the second half. From there, MSU responded with an 8-0 run for a 56-45 lead. Weatherspoon and Zuppardo capped that run with back-to-back baskets.
Florida answered real quickly pulling even in less than three minutes of playing time. The Gators used a 13-2 run to tie the contest at 58.
Still, the Bulldogs battled back on top with a 3-point play from Sword. From there, Florida took the lead for good with 11 straight points.
MSU kept balling though. Seven straight points by Sword brought the Bulldogs with 73-72 with 3:47 left. However, the foul trouble and inside depth of the Gators proved too much to overcome.
For the contest, MSU hit 30 of 67 shots from the field (44.8 percent), 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 12 of 17 shots from the foul line (70.6 percent). Florida hit 26 of 58 shots from the field (44.8 percent), 9 of 21 shots from 3-point range (42.9 percent) and 20 of 33 shots from the foul line (60.6 percent).
Florida held a 45-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and eight turnovers, while the Gators had 13 assists and 15 turnovers.
Florida received 20 points from Dorian Finney-Smith, 19 points from KeVaughn Allen, 16 points from John Egbunu and 11 points from Devin Robinson.
MSU returns to the Humphrey Coliseum for a Saturday matchup with in-state rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs and Rebels will tip at 1 p.m. and be televised nationally on the SEC Network.
(From MSU Media Relations)