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Florida 83, Mississippi State 58: Gators use balance to outclass Bulldogs, but worries remain

2013 Florida thumping 2013 Mississippi State would happen about 99 times if the teams played 100 times. But it's the way Florida won — and may have lost another player — that is cause for concern.

Patric Young shouldn't have to take shots like this to get his shots.
Patric Young shouldn't have to take shots like this to get his shots.

Florida was going to beat Mississippi State soundly in Gainesville on Saturday as long as it managed to get the balls rolled out, and the 83-58 win the Gators recorded is proof of that. Five Gators scored in double figures, Mike Rosario led all scorers with 18 points, Florida shot better than 53 percent from the floor, Casey Prather matched a career high with 12 points, Mississippi State committed 16 turnovers, and the game wasn't in doubt from about 10 minutes in.

But the potential loss of Erik Murphy and the Gators' increased reliance on the three are both worrisome.

With about five minutes left in the game, Murphy appeared to tweak his ankle, and limped off the court and to the locker room for further observation. Florida's played just once without Murphy this year, in a good win at Yale, but being without Murphy and Will Yegeute would be a big problem for a team that doesn't have size or frontcourt depth in surplus when both are healthy.

Florida's trend toward threes is something even more vexing.

Florida made nine of 25 threes on Saturday, at a respectable 36 percent clip, and that's not a terrible thing in a vacuum. It was also the fourth straight outing in which the Gators have jacked 21 or more threes — and they've taken 102 threes in that span to 117 two-pointers. A staggering 46.6 percent of Florida's shot attempts in their last four games have been from behind the arc, and that percentage would be the highest in Division I.

If Florida can make threes at a clip that merits that many three attempts — as they certainly have so far, sinking 40 of the 102 shots (39.2 percent) — then Florida will probably be fine with taking its usual aggressiveness from distance to another level.

I still think Florida can and will beat Kentucky, especially in the O'Connell Center, where it's been even more dominant than its spotless 11-0 home record suggests. But I know three-point shooting, and I know these Gators, and I know that Kentucky has played three-point defense about as well as anyone Florida has seen this year.

And I can't say I'm not alarmed.