Florida has spent much of its SEC schedule shedding the rep that it acquired during non-conference play as a defense-first, offense-never squad. On Tuesday against Mississippi, the Gators reacquired that rep — then, when they needed scoring punch late, lost it just as quickly.
One thing they didn't lose? The game.
Florida's 77-72 win over the Rebels propels it to 16 wins on the season — matching the Gators' win total from 2014-15 even before Valentine's Day.
Dorian Finney-Smith, as has become predictable of late, carried the Gators in this one. He had 16 points and six rebounds, and was Florida's most reliable scorer all night, no surprise for a senior who's had 16 or more points in eight of his last nine outings.
But unlike on Saturday against Kentucky, he had help against Mississippi. John Egbunu had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and controlled the defensive glass. KeVaughn Allen had 15 points, and saved his five second-half points for the final minute of play. Devin Robinson had 15 points on just seven shots off the bench, including a game-sealing dunk.
That more than made up for another relatively underwhelming night from Florida point guards Chris Chiozza (five points on 10 shots) and Kasey Hill (10 points on seven shots), who did combine for 11 assists. And while Florida's 16 turnovers and handsy defense on Stefan Moody (19 points, 17 in the second half) helped keep the Rebels in contact all night, Mississippi led for just over two minutes to Florida's more than 30.
This was a game that the Gators controlled by doing just enough, against a team that could be held off merely by holding on. At the O'Connell Center, the Gators have shown a propensity for doing just that.
And that should get them into the NCAA Tournament.
How long they'll stay is another matter.