By David Brandt/The Associated Press
STARKVILLE — Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy each scored 18 points, Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin added 13 and No. 8 Florida cruised to an 82-47 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night.
The Gators (16-2, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) have now won eight straight and were never challenged in this one, bolting out to a 20-6 lead in less than eight minutes and a 41-19 advantage by halftime.
Florida hit a season-high 14 3-pointers, including four each by Boynton and Murphy. Boynton finished 7 of 11 from the field and 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
The Gators are already known as one of the nation’s premier defensive teams, giving up about 51 points per game. But their offense was just as efficient against the Bulldogs, as Florida made 31 of 56 shots (55.4 percent) from the field and 14 of 31 (45.2 percent) from 3-point range.
Fred Thomas led Mississippi State (7-11, 2-4) with 19 points. Colin Borchert and Gavin Ware both added 10. The Bulldogs have lost four straight.
Florida blitzed the Bulldogs early, making 4 of 7 from 3-point range in the opening minutes. Boynton and Murphy both hit 3-pointers during the early run, which set the tone for the entire night.
The Gators pushed their lead to 31-8 on Wilbekin’s layup with 8:21 remaining in the first half and the half-empty Humphrey Coliseum — which was already quiet — fell almost completely silent.
Florida shot 15 of 31 (48.4 percent) from the field in the first half and outrebounded the Bulldogs 25-9.
It was another tough night for Mississippi State, which won its first two Southeastern Conference games but has now dropped four straight by at least 15 points. The Bulldogs were obviously overmatched from the beginning and some early defensive breakdowns turned this one into a laugher quickly.
Thomas was one of the few bright spots for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-5 freshman made 8 of 9 from the free-throw line and had a game-high seven steals.
It didn’t help the Bulldogs that the Gators were hitting almost every open look from 3-point range. Wilbekin hit Florida’s 11th 3-pointer of the night — and the Gators’ fifth of the second half — with 12:25 remaining to push the lead to 62-29.
Florida finished the game with a 44-20 rebounding advantage. Wilbekin added nine assists while Michael Frazier and Will Yeguete led the Gators with eight rebounds each.
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Read more in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.