*Florida is ranked #14 in this week’s AP poll, while the Bulldogs are #18. State’s highest ranking this season so far is #15.
*Mississippi State is 2-0 against teams from the SEC’s eastern side. That includes last Saturday’s success at Vanderbilt, which made the Bulldogs 1-2 in league road games.
*Florida leads the series 57-49, but State has won four of the last five meetings. The last victory in Gainesville was 2008, so no current Dog has left the O-Dome with a victory.
*Rick Stansbury is 8-8 against Florida. The MSU coach has 289 career wins and ranks 9th on the SEC list needing 297 to tie for 7th place.
The Opponent: Live by the three, die by the…no, that’s not entirely correct. Even when these Gators have come up short on the scoreboard it wasn’t for lack of outside offense and accuracy. So yes, Florida really does live by the longball and live very well indeed. What has opponents on edge is an improving interior attack to balance everything out. No, the current frontcourt isn’t on a par yet with the trio of Parsons/Tyus/Macklin graduated last year. But Patric Young and Erik Murphy (anybody else ponder if the guys could swap a consonant to get the first names right?) have seized their opportunities to go from ’11 backup big men to starters, and each has more than doubled their scoring. For that matter soph Will Yeguette has taken his own starting turns so if the Gators want size on the court they can go that route. And this troika is shooting a combined 59%, led by Young with an eye-opening 64% on anything he tries. Murphy of course is the classic Donovan center-guard, a post-size body with outside aim as his 29 treys shows. His pulling an opposing post from the paint makes rebounding much simpler for everyone else. Thing is, with a team shooting 48% overall there aren’t as many boards to chase down on that end. Emphasis on ‘chase’ because Gator guards aren’t exactly supersized. Think ‘Vanderbilt’ but with less height and greater quickness and range. Certainly Kenny Boynton has the green light around half-court, and is just ten treys shy right now of matching his entire soph season total of 80. At 5-8 Erving Walker is not going to venture inside the arc too often, nor need to as he can stick the long shot at 41% efficiency or more often find an open teammate. Bradley Beal is the new kid in this corps and often plays like it with a negative assist/turnover rate. But 33% outside shooting solves lots of issues, and Mike Rosario is always available to add another gunner. So, this squad can score; what about defend? Well, they’ve given up under 42% shooting so far…but in three losses have been lit up overall and more to the point beaten inside by powerful posts, something to consider in this matchup for sure. The price of a go-go offense also is both quick misses and rushed turnovers. Still, when the long shots are falling Florida makes a very good living off the three…and on track for a third-straight NCAA appearance which would be the 12th in 16 Donovan seasons.
Projected Starting Lineups:
FLORIDA: F/C Patric Young, SO 6-9 247, 11.4ppg, 6.8rpg, 64fg%; F/C Erik Murphy, JR 6-10 230, 10.4ppg, 4.2rpg, 29 3ptrs, 48% 3ptrs; G Kenny Boynton, JR 6-2 189, 18.0ppg, 70 3ptrs, 44%3ptrs, 58 asts; PG Erving Walker, SR 5-8 177, 12.8ppg, 43 3ptrs, 102 asts; G Bradley Beal, FR 6-3 207, 13.9ppg, 5.9rpg, 34 3ptrs, 17 blks.
Top Reserves: F Will Yeguete, SO 6-7 222, 4.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 59%fgs; G Scottie Wilbekin, SO 6-2 178, 2.4ppg, 8 3ptrs; G Mike Rosario, RJ 6-3 191, 8.5ppg, 27 3ptrs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Rodney Hood, FR 6-8 200, 11.5ppg, 5.1rpg, 30 3ptrs; F Arnett Moultrie, JR 6-11 249, 16.4ppg, 11.2rpg, 56%fgs; C Renardo Sidney, JR 6-10 285, 10.5ppg, 4.9rpg, 56%fgs; G Dee Bost, SR 6-2 175, 16.4ppg, 88 asts, 44 3ptrs; G Brian Bryant, SR 6-3 168, 7.2ppg, 4.8rpg, 32 asts.
Top Backups: G Jalen Steele, SO 6-3 195, 7.3ppg, 34 3ptrs; C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8 253, 4.5ppg, 4.1rpg, 23 blks.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 73.8, FLA 81.3
Scoring Defense: MSU 65.6, FLA 65.3
FG Shooting: MSU 46.0%, FLA 48.1%
FG Defense: MSU 42.6%, FLA 41.8%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 35.3%, FLA 40.5%
3-point Attempts PG: MSU 19.1, FLA 26.2
Rebounding: MSU 37.4, FLA 36.7
Rebound Margin: MSU +3.9, FLA +3.1
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 70.9%, FLA 67.3%
Turnovers: MSU +0.2, FLA +2.8
BULLDOG NOTES: *Three Bulldogs—Dee Bost, Rodney Hood, and Arnett Moultrie—come in this week 1-2-3 for minutes played in the SEC (all games).
*In SEC-only stats, the Bulldogs are second in league scoring…but last in scoring defense?
*Of more concern in the pending game, State is 11th in SEC three-point defense.
*When league opponents miss though, the Bulldogs are best in defensive rebounding.
*State has been out-shot from the field in three of their four SEC wins, and in the other (LSU) it practically a draw at 43.6 to 43.3 percents.
*More irony: in SEC wins the Bulldogs have averaged less than six made-treys; in the losses it was 8.5-per.
*And they have made 29 treys in the three road games; just 13 in three home games! So much for the advantage of homecourt rims.
*Only all season has State been whistled for more fouls than the opponent.
*PF Arnett Moultrie is in a three-way tie for 1st in SEC-game scoring. He, John Jenkins of Vanderbilt and Justin Hamilton of LSU all notch 17.7 points in league play.
*For the full season Moultrie is 4th among SEC scorers at 17.1 points. But his rebounding lead is longer at 11.2 over Kentucky’s Anthony Davis with 10.3 boards all-games. Moultrie is first in SEC-game rebounding at 10.8 boards, and 2nd in field goal percentage.
*He has scored 21 or more points in three of his last four games, not coincidentally Bulldog wins.
*Moultrie has a league-best twelve double-doubles, in 18 games played. He is on track to be the third Bulldog in eight years to average a D-D for a season. Jarvis Varnado did the trick in 2010, and Lawrence Roberts in both 2004 and ’05.
*Moultrie hasn’t failed to shoot 50% or better in league games.
*PG Dee Bost is playing a SEC-high 36.8 minutes in league games.
*In the eight games prior to a 8-of-14, 3-of-6 arc evening at Vanderbilt, Bost was making just under 30% of all his shots. Against LSU he was 1-of-6 and 0-of-4.
*Yet he made up for another off-aim night by notching a season-best ten assists (his career high is 11), with three steals and seven rebounds.
*Bost has a dozen boards in the last two games.
*Just the fourth Bulldog with 200 career treys, Bost now has made 206. He needs 258 for third place.
*Bost now has 1,457 points and just passed Charles Rhodes for 13th place all-time at State.
*And he is all alone atop the assists column with 548 in 110 career games. In the last five games he has handed out 29 assists.
*Bost is third in MSU career steals with 173.
*Bost has started every game played in his four State seasons.
*In a ten-game stretch C Renardo Sidney shot at or better than 50%. Now in the last two games he is 5-of-18 overall, yet 2-of-4 at the arc.
*Sidney hasn’t made a free throw in three of the last four games. Of course he’s only played 20 and 19 minutes in those contests with constant foul problems.
*G Jalen Steele had a modest shooting slump that seems over after going 8-of-12 at the arc the last two games, and 9-of-14 overall.
*And for the first time since December 22, Steele found himself at the foul line Wednesday. He made all four free throws.
*Steele’s job as a set-shooter is pretty basic, and he has just one assist in the last six games.
*SF Rodney Hood is getting up to SEC speed. The last three games he is 11-of-28 shooting, not great but better than the 8-of-33 start in three games.
*He is 4-of-13 at the arc the last three games, too. More impressive is his picking up the assist pace with 9 scoring passes in the same stretch.
*The illness absence of G Deville Smith has brought G Shaun Smith back into action after a eight-game drought. He played a minute at Vanderbilt and two more against LSU to spell starters.
*G Bryan Bryant has been struggling with the shooting lately, 6-of-22 in the last four games. So he cut his shots down to just one try in the LSU game, and made it.
*Six points might not see much but it was more than C Wendell Lewis had scored (four) in the previous seven games combined.
*Lewis is smart about selecting his rare shots, too, with 67% accuracy.