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Gators Men’s Basketball Drops Third Straight; Lose to Mississippi State 78-71

The Florida Gator men’s basketball team dropped its third straight game as they lost to Mississippi State 78-71 on Tuesday night.  Florida falls to 12-8 on the season and 4-3 in SEC games. The Bulldogs go to 13-7 on the season and 4-3 in the SEC.

Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry was lights-out against Florida. he scored a career high 27 points and was a perfect 3 of 3 from beyond the arc.  Perry also had his career-high in minutes played with 37.

“I was in a whole different zone,” Perry said.

Florida’s Scottie Lewis also notched a career-high in points with 17 off of three 3 points shots and overall 6 of 10 shooting. Of those points, 13 came in the first half as he cooled off in the second half, making just one of four shots.

According to Lewis, he dedicated his career-high performance to Kobe Bryant. Bryant and his daughter tragically passed away this past Sunday in a helicopter crash.

Florida head coach Mike White elected to start Lewis over freshman Omar Payne. Payne had started seven of the last eight games for the Gators and this move was likely to try and stifle the Bulldogs’ gameplan coming into the game, as Payne was the projected starter.

High-Efficiency Gators

In the first half, the Gators shot 57.1% from three and 58.1% from the field.

Lewis started with 10 points in the first five5 minutes of the game on 4-4 shooting and finished the first half with 13 points and three 3 point shots. He hit catch-and-shoot shots as well as shots off of the dribble. He sparked the Gators early, as fellow freshmen fed off of his success shooting the ball.

Lewis’ teammates got the memo. The Gators were really feeling it from range in the first half as they drained eight 3’s in the first half.  Florida achieved as much as a 16 point lead with four minutes left in the first. This is when the game took a hard turn.

High-Efficiency Bulldogs

Mississippi State would finish 7 of their last 9 from the field to cut the Gator first-half lead to only 10 points. Much of the Bulldogs’ late push came behind Reggie Perry’s 17 first-half points, 15 of which came in the last 10 minutes of the half.

This surge continued into the second half, as the Bulldogs more than doubled Florida’s seven points through the first six minutes of the half. Mississippi State hit shots at a high rate and tied the game up with 11:19 left. The Bulldogs would take the lead off of a three-point shot from Tyson Carter with 8:58 left.

According to Mike White, the Bulldogs’ run came from poor transition defense on the part of Florida.

The Bulldogs shot 61% in the second half, while the Gators shot a paltry 30%. Florida’s three-point success left the O’Connell Center early too, as the Gators shot 0-7 from range in the second half.

Florida had chances to chip away at Mississippi State’s lead down the stretch. This would prove futile though as Keyontae Johnson missed a layup and Noah Locke dribbled the ball off of his foot.

Mistakes like these can come from a lack of focus. According to Kerry Blackshear Jr, Florida needs to find a way to stay locked-in all game.

Looking ahead

The Gators next travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Mississippi State returns to Starkville to face Tennessee on Saturday.

About Steven Walker

Steven Walker is a beat writer for ESPN Gainesville and is currently studying Journalism & Sports Media at the University of Florida.

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