In their first game without center John Egbunu, the Florida Gators scored a 57-52 win in Starkville over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Many wondered how the Gators would fare after Egbunu was ruled out for the season after suffering a torn ACL against Auburn, but Florida handled the task just fine.
Of course, it helped that Mississippi State was downright putrid from three-point land, with the Bulldogs going 2-for-23 (8%) on the day.
Balance was one again the name of the game for the streaking Gators, who have now won eight straight games. Chris Chiozza led the way with 14 points, KeVaughn Allen had 11, and Kasey Hill and Kevarrius Hayes both chipped in nine.
For the Bulldogs, Quinndary Weatherspoon continued his fantastic season in scoring 17 points, but like most of his teammates, struggled from beyond the arc (1-for-8).
Florida didn’t play close to its best basketball, yet still walked out with a victory. Mike White will definitely take that.
Egbunu’s injury was certainly a massive blow to the Gators’ chances of making a deep NCAA tournament run, but there’s still enough talent on this team for Florida to win games in March.
Consistent shooting will continue to be the biggest focus area for Florida, while staying physical in the paint without Egbunu will also be critical to this team’s success. They managed to get by in this particular game, but it’ll be more difficult once we reach March Madness.
As for the Bulldogs, they just don’t yet know how to win close games against good teams. That will come with more experience, and once things click, Ben Howland will have a scary good team on his hands.
For now, Mississippi State will look to play spoiler during the final few weeks of the season and in the SEC tournament.