Bulldogs welcome red-hot Gators

By The Associated Press

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State is not easily discouraged.
Following a 26-point loss to Arkansas on Wednesday, MSU’s team plane had mechanical issues, which delayed the trip home until early the next morning. No problem.
“We went back to the hotel and we got some sleep in,” junior Colin Borchert said. “We had practice the next day, so we had to get as much sleep as we could to be ready.”
Despite the plane mishap, Borchert said the young, short-handed Bulldogs are feeling fine heading into today’s home game against No. 8 Florida (7 p.m., ESPN2).
“We’re really young, so the young players are starting to feel a little fatigued, but they’re fighting,” Borchert said. “In practice we’re working hard every day. I think the best thing for us to do is to keep on working hard.”
Three consecutive losses haven’t taken the Bulldogs (7-10, 2-3 SEC) out of their work habits. In fact, Borchert is finding ways to improve his game, in particular his shooting.
The 6-foot-8 junior college transfer has struggled mightily with his jump shot, making just 21.2 percent from 3-point range. But he hit 2 of 4 from behind the arc against Arkansas.
That, he said, was a result of working on “game shots” late at night, which is more than just putting up shots.
“I make it more of a workout,” Borchert said. “You run into shots, maybe set a back screen and come off it and be ready to shoot. Do a lot of screens, so you’ll be able to pop off of that.”
Borchert and the rest of MSU’s shooters will need to be clicking tonight, because they’re facing a Florida team that allows a mere 51.4 points per game, tops in the SEC. Opponents are shooting 36.3 percent against the Gators, also best in the league.
Florida’s on a roll
Florida (15-2, 5-0) enters on a seven-game winning streak, and this will be its fourth road trip in six SEC games. UF’s average margin of victory against SEC foes is 24.8 points.
MSU, meanwhile, has lost its last three games by an average of 24.3 points. But Florida coach Billy Donovan had praise for State under first-year coach Rick Ray.
“Coach Ray, I’ve got a lot of respect for the way his team has played. They’re very aggressive,” Donovan said.
But the Bulldogs have continually struggled with turnovers, shooting, and rebounding, all natural products of so many young players logging so many minutes. All they can do is keep plugging away.
“We’re coming to practice willing to work,” Borchert said, “willing to work every day and get better.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com