Senior forward Casey Prather scored 16 points, lifting No. 3 Florida to a 62-51 win over Mississippi State on Thursday night in Starkville, Miss.
Florida (18-2, 7-0 SEC) won its 12th straight game, continuing its longest in-season winning streak since running off 17 victories in a row to start the 2005-06 season.
Senior center Patric Young added 12 points and eight rebounds, and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin had eight points and eight assists for the Gators.
Junior forward Colin Borchert led Mississippi State (13-7, 3-4) with 15 points. Sophomore guard Craig Sword added 12 points and freshman point guard I.J. Ready had 10 points and four rebounds.
The Bulldogs dropped to 11-2 at home this season.
Ahead just 27-26 at halftime, Florida built a 13-point lead in the second half. The Gators overcame a poor shooting night on 3-pointers (6 of 20, 30 percent) and at the free-throw line (8 of 19, 42.1 percent).
Florida scored 14 points off turnovers and outrebounded Mississippi State 38-30.
The Gators came into the game with its highest ranking since climbing to No. 2 in the country on Feb. 4, 2013. That week, Florida suffered an 80-69 upset loss at Arkansas.
In the first half against Mississippi State, the favored Gators appeared in danger of another upset loss. Borchert sparked the Bulldogs with two early 3-pointers, helping Mississippi State jump to a 14-13 lead.
Down 16-15, Florida answered with an 8-0 run, which included a 3-pointer from Wilbekin and driving layups in transition from Prather and freshman point guard Kasey Hill. Hill’s layup gave Florida a 23-16 lead.
The Gators extended the advantage to 27-18 on a free throw from walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz, but Mississippi State closed the half with an 8-0 run. Ready scored four points during the run, including a floater in the lane with two seconds left to cut Florida’s lead to 27-26 at halftime.
Florida failed to score in the final 5:28 of the first half. The Gators shot just 37 percent from the field in the first half and Mississippi State shot 42 percent from the floor before the break.
NOTES: Florida announced earlier this week that freshman F Chris Walker was cleared by the NCAA. Walker will make his debut on Feb. 4 against Missouri. Walker received a 12-game suspension from the NCAA for receiving improper benefits that included free cell phones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel. Under terms of his reinstatement, Walker will repay $270 he received from two agents to charity and perform 80 hours of community service. … Mississippi State already has more victories than it had while going 10-22 last season. … Florida senior C Patric Young was named to the Capital One All-Academic District Team. Young holds a 3.7 grade-point average in communications.
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