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January 30, 2014

Gator Gameday: Florida at Mississippi State

GAME DAY LINKS: Notebook: Frazier named SEC Player of the Week | UF-MSU Game Day Thread

No. 3 Florida at Mississippi State
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 - 7:00 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN2 / RADIO: Gator IMG Sports Radio Network, Sirius 113/XM 199
Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-6, 3-3 Southeastern Conference)
Streak: Lost 1
Last Game: Lost to Ole Miss 82-63
G I.J. Ready (scored 13 Saturday in first game back from concussion) Fr. 5-11 170
G Craig Sword (team scoring leader at 13.9 PPG) So. 6-3/td> 193
G Fred Thomas (reached double figures in two of four SEC games) So. 6-5 206
F Colin Borchert (averaging 4.3 RPG to go along with 10.4 PPG) Sr. 6-8 217
F Gavin Ware (only played 28 combined minutes in last two games) So. 6-9 268

Nebraska CornhuskersFlorida Gators (17-2, 6-0 SEC)
Streak: Won 11
Last Game: Defeated Tennessee 67-41
G Scottie Wilbekin (looking for fourth consecutive game of scoring in double figures) Sr. 6-2 176
G Michael Frazier II (shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range in SEC play) So. 6-4 199
F Casey Prather (making 63.1 percent of his shots during conference play) Sr. 6-6 212
F Will Yeguete (averaging 24.1 minutes in 19 starts) Sr. 6-8 230
C Patric Young (hasn't recorded fewer than five rebounds since Nov. 29) Sr. 6-9 240

Get aggressive

There is a certain tone that needs to be set in conference road games if you're Florida. The Gators are the clear-cut favorite in the league, and every away arena they play in will be amped up. Mississippi State make buckets inside -- 45.4 percent on the year -- but is averaging just 70.9 points per game. A big reason for that: Only one SEC team is worse at shooting free throws than the Bulldogs. Don't be afraid to put them on the line.
Play inspired up front

Mississippi State is one of the worst rebounding teams in the SEC. The Bulldogs are in the bottom-three of the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding. Florida's frontcourt is coming off a valiant effort against Tennessee's tough big men, but this game will have far less built-in motivation to play with intensity. The Gators need to move beyond their tendency to play down to opponents, especially on the glass.
Start fast

At its best, Florida's defense has stifled opponents early in games and derailed any reasonable plan its opposition has had for that game. That has happened mostly at home. The Gators need to prove they can do similar things on the road in an SEC that's looking more and more like it should be dominated by Billy Donovan's team. Knocking an opposing crowd out of the game early would be a major step forward.

Donovan on a Mississippi State team that is still fairly young:

"All those guys are better. There's probably no other way to get better than getting the level of experience that those guys had a year ago. They've certainly played extremely well at home this year. I think, and I said this after last year, I think Rick Ray's got a really, really good nucleus of four or five guys."
Frazier on the Gators trying to avoid letdowns:

"Last year, our team I think got complacent at times. Even this year, we've gotten complacent at times. So moving forward, I think the thing our team is having now is to be desperate, play desperate. I think if we take on that identity, it'll help a lot."

Florida 70-56: This looks on paper like a significant mismatch in favor of the Gators. But keep in mind the Bulldogs are 11-1 at home, and Florida has yet to truly enforce its will in a conference road game this season. There is a new emphasis on sustained focus around the Gators' locker room but will it translate to more consistent performances in non-marquee games? We'll find out tonight.

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