By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Home was no safe harbor for Mississippi State, not against a team like Florida.
The No. 8-ranked Gators (16-2, 6-0 SEC) won their eighth consecutive game, leaving Humphrey Coliseum with a resounding 82-47 victory Saturday night in front of a crowd of 5,667.
It was the fourth straight loss for MSU (7-11, 2-4), and all of them have come by double digits. State has lost back-to-back home games by 30-plus points for the first time since the Hump opened in 1975.
MSU coach Rick Ray said Florida is the best team in the SEC, and not only that, “they’re probably playing better than anybody in the nation at this point in time.” He pointed to not only the Gators’ talent, but their willingness to share the ball.
Ray wants his young team to take notes.
“Right now we’re just a selfish basketball team,” Ray said. “And then on top of that, we’re not defending the way we need to defend, because we’re so wrapped up in our offense.”
Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy each scored 18 points for Florida, which shot 55.4 percent overall and made 14 of 31 from 3-point range.
“I really didn’t know all of them could shoot like that,” MSU guard Craig Sword said. “It was tough trying to guard everybody.”
Fred Thomas scored a career-high 19 points for MSU. The freshman guard made 5 of 14 shots and 8 of 9 from the free throw line.
As a team, State hit just 32.7 percent overall and 3 of 15 from behind the arc. And it got killed on the boards, with Florida posting a 44-20 rebounding advantage.
“We’re a little bigger than them, and I think when they play their zone it allows for a little better positioning on offensive rebounds,” said Murphy, who had six rebounds.
Michael Frazier and Will Yeguete had eight boards apiece for Florida.
The game got out of hand early, with Florida using a 10-0 run to open up a 20-6 lead. It reached 31-8 by the 8:30 mark, and the Gators led 41-19 at halftime.
Florida didn’t let up out of the locker room, pushing its lead to 56-21 on Boynton’s 3-pointer.
Florida coach Billy Donovan praised the job Ray has done in getting the Bulldogs to play hard. Ray appreciated the encouragement but still isn’t happy with his team right now.
“When you’re playing a good basketball team, you have to figure out a way to win,” he said, “and our guys are more trying to figure out how to score than trying to figure out a way to win.”