By Mark Long/The Associated Press
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In close games on the road against good teams, there are two things Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury believes teams just can’t do.
Commit turnovers and miss free throws.
The No. 18 Bulldogs did both in a 69-57 loss at No. 14 Florida on Saturday.
Arnett Moultrie and Dee Bost scored 12 points apiece, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome 14 turnovers and six missed free throws.
Stansbury gave Florida all the credit. But he also blamed his team for causing some its own woes.
“When you’re on the road fighting against a real quality team like Florida, you have to take advantage of all those situations,” Stansbury said. “It’s a fine line on the road as the visiting team.”
Coming off a physical game Thursday night at Mississippi, the Gators (17-4, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) started a little sluggish Saturday but really got things rolling in the second half. An 11-0 run sparked by Bradley Beal’s third 3-pointer and highlighted by Patric Young’s two dunks turned a tight game into a double-digit affair.
Mississippi State (17-5, 4-3) trailed 62-47 after the spurt and never got the lead to single digits. The Gators made enough plays down the stretch to secure their second win in six games against the Bulldogs.
Florida also improved to 5-1 in short-turnaround games (Thursday-Saturday) over the last three seasons. Mississippi State is the only conference team better, posting a 5-0 mark in those kind of games.
“It is difficult,” Stansbury said. “It’s better when you’re at home. … As a coach, none of likes that scenario. But it’s part of it. Most of us in this league have to do it.”
Moultrie added 13 rebounds, notching his league-leading 13th double-double of the season before fouling out with 2:04 remaining.
Beal led the Gators with 19 points. Young finished with 12, many of them coming on crowd-rousing plays in the second half.
Florida used pressing, trapping defense to dictate tempo and force the Bulldogs into all those turnovers.
“They had a lot to do with us not playing our best,” Stansbury said.
Florida trapped Bost on every pick-and-roll play, often forcing the ball out of his hands and trying to wear him down.
“They were communicating with each other and were out there on defense talking amongst themselves,” Bost said. “That’s a sign of a really good team.”
The biggest difference came at the 3-point line.
The Gators, who lead the nation in 3s, hit 11 of 24 from behind the arc.
“It seemed like 21, but it was only 11,” Stansbury said.
The Bulldogs were 7 of 16 from 3-point land, but they had no answer for Florida’s shooters.
Beal was 3 of 4 from behind the arc. Murphy proved to be even more dangerous, hitting 4 of 7 shots from that range.
“That’s why they lead the country in 3-point shooting,” Stansbury said. “There’s a reason why they have that stat.”
Florida’s leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, struggled against Bost and finished with two points on 1-for-6 shooting. But Boynton had five assists and no turnovers, an encouraging sign for Donovan.
“I was really proud of him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I think Kenny maybe would be a guy that would be upset a couple of years ago.”
Young picked up the slack. He made 6 of 11 shots and added six rebounds. He was active on both ends, grabbing three offensive boards, taking two charges and scoring in a variety of ways.
Still dealing with tendinitis in his right ankle, Young showed no issues with the nagging injury. He had three dunks and a putback in the final 12 minutes that helped turn the game. It started when he grabbed a rebound off Erving Walker’s missed 3, slammed it home and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“His energy really helped us on both ends of the floor,” Donovan said.
Read more in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.