Florida routs Miss. State after lineup change
by David Jones, USA TODAY Sports
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida senior Kenny Boynton leaned against a wall outside of the Gators’ locker room following an 83-58 win against a Mississippi State team that only brought six scholarship players to the O’Connell Center on Saturday and lost for the eighth consecutive time.
The second-ranked Gators (19-3 overall, 9-1 Southeastern Conferece) have been waiting for this one — Kentucky visits Florida next Tuesday with first place in the conference on the line.
“We need a challenge like Kentucky,” said Boynton, one of five Gators in double figures with 10 points and six assists. “Despite their record, whatever they did in the SEC, I personally think they are a good team. So we definitely have got to get ready for Kentucky.”
The win was vital after an 80-69 loss at Arkansas last Tuesday ended a 10-game winning streak and certainly will knock Florida down the polls and tightened the SEC race at the same time.
“It was very important,” Boynton said of Saturday’s win. “You know some teams lose one, they have a hangover to the next game. So we definitely wanted to get the Arkansas game behind us. We’ll see them again (on Feb. 23 in Gainesville) but we wanted to get this one and move on.”
Coming off the bad road loss, unhappy with how a starter responded in practice and dealing with a serious injury to a star player, Florida coach Billy Donovan decided to try some new ideas Saturday.
He benched point guard Scottie Wilbekin to start the game and inserted freshman Michael Frazier.
“I felt like coming out of the Arkansas game he needed to understand there are things he needed to do for our team . . . I kind of was on him about making better decisions,” Donovan said.
He also pointed out Thursday that Wilbekin wasn’t bringing energy to a team that needed to rebound fast. When the same thing happened Friday, Donovan decided it was time to make a shift.
Wilbekin had shown “no energy, no enthusiasm” according to Donovan.
“If you’re not going to play with passion,” he told Wilbekin, “we’re going to start somebody else.”