The Florida Gators and Mississippi State Bulldogs are set to clash in the second round of the 2023 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Gators come into this game with a 16-15 record and secured the No. 8 seed, while the Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 20-11 record and earned the No. 9 seed.
End of Regular Season
To end the regular season, Florida rallied to win their last two games of the season following their three-game losing streak after losing Castleton to a broken hand. The last two wins earned first-year Head Coach Todd Golden a winning season.
Last regular season O’Dome rewind ⏪ #GoGators pic.twitter.com/F8y8ZQgmol
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 6, 2023
Keys to Victory
Both teams come into this game with something to prove. Florida has struggled down the stretch, losing six of their last 10 games. However, the Gators ended the regular season with some momentum by gaining a comeback win against LSU. On the other hand, Mississippi State has won seven of their last 10, losing their last regular season game to Vanderbilt.
Florida will rely heavily on Riley Kugel, named Monday to the league’s All-Freshman Team. Kugel had 21 points in their last game against LSU, including consecutive three-pointers at the end of the game to secure the comeback win.
Can’t explain how grateful i am #trustgod pic.twitter.com/7CIYLCzLCG
— Riley Kugel (@RileyKugel) March 7, 2023
Sophomore guard, Will Richard, will also be a key player for the Gators. Last week against LSU, he made 7-of-10 shots and managed to grab six rebounds.
The Gators will also have to come up with answers to Mississippi State’s elite defense. In order to do so, they must protect the ball and prevent any possible steals.
For Mississippi State, the key will be cleaning up their shooting from the field. At 27.3%, the Bulldogs are dead last in the country in three-point percentage. The Gators can profit off of this by collapsing in the paint and forcing the long shots.
Regular Season Matchup
In their regular season matchup back in January, Florida defeated the Bulldogs on the road 61-59. Castleton, although not present this time around, led the Gators with 13 points. However, Richard threw in 12 points on four three-pointers in five attempts. Kugel, who was originally committed to Mississippi State, came off the bench to score eight points and grab five rebounds.
In the end, it will come down to which team can execute their game plan and make key plays down the stretch. This matchup has all the makings of a classic SEC tournament game and will be an exciting matchup.
The winner of this game will go on to play Alabama in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Friday.