GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A 16-4 run midway through the second half proved decisive as Mississippi State dropped a 69-62 decision to Florida in a Southeastern Conference men's basketball game played Saturday afternoon at UF's O'Connell Center.
MSU dropped its fourth straight road league game. The Bulldogs also slipped back out of first place in the Western Division, falling to 16-7 overall and 4-4 in league play. Florida improved to 17-6 and 6-3.
After a very competitive and defensive first half, the Bulldogs actually held a 29-27 lead at the break. MSU still clung to that lead at 41-39 less than seven minutes into the final half. However, the Gators sparked the home crowd by reeling off a 16-4 run. The Bulldogs were slow to recover but did offer one final threat.
Trailing 61-49, the Bulldogs reeled off a 7-0 run. Phil Turner's old-fashioned 3-point play the the UF lead to 61-56 with 1:10 remaining. The Gators then hit 8-of-10 free throws to close out their fourth straight league win at home.
In the opening half, the lead changed hands seven times and there were seven ties. The Bulldogs built an early 9-4 lead on a Ravern Johnson dunk. The Gators scored the next five points to tie the teams, 9-9. Neither team had larger than a three-point lead the remainder of the half.
The pattern held true in the early stages of the final half. The teams were tied at 31, 33, 35 and 41. Trailing 45-44, the Bulldogs missed seven of their next shots from the field as the Gators seized control of the contest.
A 3-pointer by Chandler Parsons capped the 16-4 run and gave the hosts a 55-45 advantage with 7:15 remaining. The Bulldogs scored on back-to-back possessions before the Gators answered with six straight points to regain complete control, at 61-49 with only 2:40 remaining.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 60 shots from the field (38.3 percent), 8 of 23 shots from 3-point range (34.8 percent) and 8 of 13 shots from the foul line (61.5 percent). The Gators hit 25 of 62 shots from the field (40.3 percent), 3 of 17 shots from 3-point range (17.6 percent) and 16 of 22 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent).
UF held a 46-35 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 16 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Gators had 14 assists and 14 turnovers.
Johnson led the Bulldogs with 20 points on an 8-of-11 day from the field. Jarvis Varnado recorded a double-double with 16 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. However, the nation's leading shot blocker only managed one swat. Barry Stewart was also in double figures with 12 points.
Vernon Macklin had a monster day inside, also scoring 20 points for the Gators. Chandler Parsons had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds for the victors.
The Bulldogs resume action with a three-game homestand. MSU hosts in-state rival Ole Miss in an 8 p.m. start Thursday night in the Humphrey Coliseum. That contest will be televised nationally by ESPN. The homestand concludes with Auburn on next Saturday and Kentucky the following Tuesday.