NO. 16 MISSISSIPPI STATE (17-4, 4-2 SEC) AT NO. 13 FLORIDA (16-4, 4-1 SEC)
Time/TV: 1:30 p.m./SEC Network, ESPN Full Court
Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center
Mississippi State 32 (No. 3 SEC)
Florida 35 (No. 4 SEC)
Line: Florida -9.5 (145 o/u)
Mississippi State Players to Watch: F Arnett Moultrie, 6-11 Jr. (17.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 56.3% FG); G Rodney Hood, 6-8 Fr. (11.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.1 apg); G Dee Bost, 6-2 Sr. (16 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.6 rpg). Moultrie, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds in Wednesday’s 76-71 win over LSU, ranks seventh in the nation at 11.2 rebounds per contest.
Florida Players to Watch: G Kenny Boynton, 6-2 Jr. (18.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 44.6% 3s); F Patric Young, 6-9 So. (11.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 63.5% FG); G Erving Walker, 5-8 Sr. (12.9 ppg, 4.9 apg, 40.2% 3s). After going 4-for-10 from the 3-point line in Thursday’s 64-60 win over Mississippi, Boynton is making 3.5 3s per game. Nearly 57 percent of his field goal have been behind the 3-point line this season. He’s made at least one 3-point shot in 34 straight games.
Storylines: Both teams are still in contention in the SEC. The Gators are 4-1 in the league after four straight wins, including back-to-back road victories over South Carolina and Ole Miss. They overcame a 16-point deficit in the 64-60 win over the Rebels on Thursday. The Bulldogs are 4-2 in the league following a come-from-behind 78-77 overtime win at Vanderbilt on Saturday and Wednesday’s win over LSU.
Keys: The Gators will be facing a quick turnaround after Thursday’s win over Mississippi. Saturday’s tipoff will occur just 29 hours after the game ended in Oxford. Mississippi State has two of the SEC’s top five scorers in Moultrie and Bost. Bost has a Bulldog-record 538 career assists, which is 14th-most in SEC history. Florida leads the SEC and is seventh in the nation with 81.3 points per game and is second in the conference in scoring margin at plus-16. The Bulldogs give up the third-most point in the league (65.6). The Gators also rank second to Kentucky at 48.1 percent from the floor and second to Vanderbilt in 3-point percentage (40.5). Mississippi State is 11th in field goal defense (42.6) and ninth in 3-point defense (33.8). The two teams are close to even in rebounding. MSU averages 37.4 to the Gators’ 36.7 boards every night. The Bulldogs out-rebound their opponents by 3.9 per game, Florida by 3. The Bulldogs are third in the conference at 70.9 percent from the foul line. Florida is 10th with a 67.3 percentage. However, the Gators are hitting 75.7 percent from the charity stripe in SEC games. Florida leads the SEC and is 18th in the nation with 16.8 assists per game. The Gators are also first in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5-to-1). Walker ranks second in the conference in assists at 4.9 per game, and Bost is fourth with 4.4. Mississippi State is 2-2 in true road games this season. The Gators are 10-0 at home this season and have won 16 straight overall in Gainesville.
The Bottom Line: Florida has been very tough at home and, until Saturday, the Bulldogs have struggled on the road. Pretty easy to predict the final result.
The Pick: Florida 86, Mississippi State 73