Florida Gators bounce back against Mississippi State Bulldogs

Florida Gators guard/forward Casey Prather (24) shoots during the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators won 83-58. (USA TODAY Sports)

The Florida Gators (19-3) had some frustration to unload after having their 10 game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks Wednesday night. The Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-15) bore the brunt of that frustration in the 83-58 Florida win.

The Gators had two holes in their lineup when the game tipped off. Micheal Frazier II filled one of them when he started in place of Scottie Wilbekin. It was only a temporary lineup move; Florida head coach Billy Donovan said Wilbekin’s disposition in practice wasn’t to his liking, thus the point guard sat the first 2:39.

The other hole was absent Will Yeguete, who had arthroscopic knee surgery and will optimistically miss the rest of the regular season. That hole is a tricky one to fill for Florida moving forward. Casey Prather performed admirably with 12 points and is the heir apparent to Yeguete’s role full-time thanks to his defensive acumen and body type. With Prather stepping into extended minutes the question is who will back him up? Frazier II and DeVon Walker will vie for playing time as Florida figures out a rotation to end the regular season but for Saturday night, the Gators’ holes were not exploited.

Mississippi State seemed as overmatched as they did in the first meeting of the two teams, an 82-47 shellacking by Florida. The Gators started a tad slow on this night, possibly stemming from the lack of Wilbekin. The lead changed a few times and then Florida got rolling, extending the lead to double digits in the latter part of the first half. The Gators then spent most of the second half with the lead in the 20’s, with nary a hint of suspense during Saturday night’s action. Erik Murphy did roll an ankle and limp to the locker room but Donovan said it was nothing serious in his post game press conference.

The Gators had a stellar night shooting, ending with 52.5% from the field. Mike Rosario led all players with 18 points and Erik Murphy had 17 as well.

The outcome was rarely in doubt, but Saturday night served as an effective test drive of a new rotation with a Kentucky team beginning to hit their stride coming to town Tuesday.

As Florida moves forward there will be questions about how they can perform in a conference race that while once was cut and dry in favor of the Gators, now seems slightly muddled. Champions must overcome adversity on the journey to the top; it will be interesting to see if Florida can do just that.

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