NCAAB: Florida’s lead just big enough to hold off Mississippi State

Colin Castleton scored a team-high 13 points as Florida escaped with a 61-59 win over Mississippi State on Saturday night in Starkville, Miss.

The Gators led by as many as 16 points late in the first half and 10 points with 4:02 remaining after a 3-pointer by Kowacie Reeves put them up 60-50.

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But Mississippi State cut Florida’s lead to 61-59 on a 3-pointer by Dashawn Davis with 1:28 left. The Bulldogs had two chances to tie the game at the end of regulation, but D.J. Jeffries and Cameron Matthews missed shots close to the rim with under four seconds remaining, and Castleton was able to secure the rebound to finish off the win.

Will Richard added 12 points for the Gators (11-8, 4-3 SEC), who have won four of their last five games. Florida won the game at the 3-point line, shooting 41.7 percent (10-of-24), while Mississippi State was 23.5 percent (4-of-17) from beyond the arc.

Tolu Smith and Shakeel Moore led Mississippi State (12-7, 1-6 SEC) with 12 points apiece. Will McNair Jr. added 10 points off the bench for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State lost its fourth straight game and has dropped seven of eight since its 11-0 start.

Richard scored nine points in the first half, helping the Gators jump to 33-24 halftime lead.

The Gators got off to a hot start, making three of their first four 3-point attempts to jump to a quick 11-3 lead.

From there, Florida extended its lead to as many as 16 points in the half, going up 33-17 on a transition layup by Kyle Lofton with 2:54 remaining.

But Mississippi State closed the half with a 7-0 run. McNair started it with a hook shot in the paint for the Bulldogs.

Then, off a Florida turnover, Jeffries converted a three-point play in transition to cut the Florida lead to 33-22. A dunk by Matthews with 55 seconds left in the half cut the Gators’ lead to 33-24 at halftime.

Florida shot 43.3 percent from the field and 41.7 percent (5-12) from 3-point range in the first half. Mississippi State, meanwhile, shot just 34.4 percent from the field and went 0 for 5 from beyond the arc.

–Field Level Media

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