FINAL: MISSISSIPPI STATE 71, FLORIDA 68
Starkville, MS – Florida has prided itself on their team defense all year. It’s been the only consistent part of their play this season. Even when the team goes through excruciating droughts offensively, they almost always have a chance to win thanks to the championship level defense they play.
Tonight is not a good example of that. Yes, the Gators only gave up 71 points against #24 Mississippi State on Tuesday. However, they couldn’t rely on their defense to make a single stop at the end of the game. Instead, the Gators fell on the road and in the SEC standings.
Head coach Mike White elected to have the Gators stay in a 1-2-2 zone that had been exposed for the latter part of the second half, and then watched as Quinndary Weatherspoon drove the length of the court, easily passing freshman Noah Locke and scoring the game winning bucket. Florida forward Kevarrius Hayes added a foul on the play to make it a three point play.
Instead of trending up in conference play, the Gators fall to 1-3 in SEC play. Somehow, this team is only a few possessions from being 4-0 in the conference slate.
It’s amazing it even got to this point. The Gators looked finished well before the scoreboard read 0.0. The Gators decided to go into a scoring funk after KeVaughn Allen drilled a three-point to give Florida a five point lead with 2:55 to play. Weatherspoon actually tied the game at 66 with 1:27 to play, but Florida too often attempted deep threes that were way too early in the shot clock.
With just twenty four seconds left in the shot clock Weatherspoon found Aric Holman wide open (three Gators defenders attempted to guard Weatherspoon, leaving Holman unattended), the Gators got ball and had an opportunity to tie or take a lead.
Freshman guard Andrew Nembhard took an ill-advised three pointer with 14 seconds still on the game clock. It wasn’t a good look. In fact, Abdul Ado partially blocked it. Nick Weatherspoon come down with the rebound but in attempting to save the ball left it loose under the basket, Locke picked up the ball and layed it in to tie the game with 10.2 left on the clock.
And this is where White must be held accountable. Allowing a true freshman to guard a potential conference player of the year candidate is a lose-lose situation. Staying in a 1-2-2 allowed for the path to open and give Weatherspoon an easy route to the basket.
The Gators still had almost four seconds to get down court and make something happen. Instead Allen was left with the ball still in his hands when the buzzer sounded (it wouldn’t have mattered, the shot didn’t go in).
- KeVaughn Allen led the Gators with 17 points on 5-12 shooting.
- Freshman Andrew Nembhard added 13 points and 8 assists.
- Noah Locke added 12 points, but only made 1-4 from behind the three point line.
- Fellow freshman Keyontae Johnson finished with 11 points on 4-6 shooting off the bench.
- Kevarrius Hayes finished with three blocks that moved him past Andrew Declercq and into sole possession of fourth place in program history (178).
- The game featured 12 ties and 11 lead changes.
Florida will travel to Athens to face Georgia on Saturday at noon. The Bulldogs are 9-7 overall and are also 1-3 in SEC play.
Georgia opened league play with a 96-50 road loss to Tennessee. The Bulldogs suffered their third 15+ point loss on Tuesday as Kentucky topped Georgia 69-49.