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Mississippi 62, Florida 61: Hard-luck Gators fall in a familiar way

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Florida couldn't catch a break with Jerry Rice's hands. (And the Stickum.)

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

A different guy made the shot over different Florida defenders. A different Gators player had his fine, best-game-of-the-season efforts wasted.

The outcome, though, was the same.

Hell, this recap could've been the same as the last one from a Florida loss to Mississippi.

Stefan Moody's deep three-pointer with two seconds remaining put Mississippi up 62-61 on Florida in this game, and an M.J. Rhett steal of Jacob Kurtz's inbounds pass put the Gators out of their misery on this night.

Devin Robinson was the valiant Gator tonight, with 14 points and a career-high seven rebounds to lead Florida in both categories, but his performance couldn't compensate for another poor shooting night — 37.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three (and just 3-for-13 after halftime) — that left the Gators scrapping for another win in the final moments.

And as has happened in eight other Florida losses in games decided by seven or fewer points this year, they just didn't have enough.

Dorian Finney-Smith joined Robinson at 14 points, and had six rebounds of his own, but no other Gator scored in double figures. Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza combined to dish eight assists, but made just four of their 16 field goals. Eli Carter made three triples, but missed his other six shots and committed three fouls and a turnover while grabbing just one board and recording a single assist.

A five-point halftime lead built on strong perimeter shooting and dominance on the offensive glass was vaporized by an 11-5 run to begin the second half by the Rebels. And the Gators couldn't defend a four-point lead produced by a Finney-Smith trey with 2:53 to play, wasting their final four possessions on two turnovers, a bad three from Finney-Smith, and a missed layup by Kurtz.

Florida is now 12-12, at .500 after the completion of non-conference play for the first time as a program since the penultimate game of the 1997-98 season.

In the last game of that season — Billy Donovan's second at Florida — the Gators lost to Georgetown in the NIT, by a 71-69 score — and that's the last time Florida's been under .500 in January, February, March, or April.

On Saturday at Texas A&M, these hard-luck Gators might make history again.