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Florida 71, Mississippi State 54: Gators roar past Bulldogs behind Egor Koulechov

With their leader ailing, the Gators got a great night from their greatest shooter.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On a night when the Florida Gators’ clear leader was suffering the effects of strep throat and coming off the bench, it seemed likely that they would need someone else to step up.

They got that — and the leader played well enough, too.

Egor Koulechov rained 23 points on Mississippi State — including 17 in the first half, which at one point tied the Bulldogs’ output — and Chris Chiozza had 10 points and seven assists as a reserve in a 71-54 win.

Koulechov’s hot shooting (9-for-13 from the floor, 4-for-5 from three) helped Florida survive a slow start that granted the Bulldogs a 7-2 lead and spotty offensive performances from KeVaughn Allen (three points on one shot) and Jalen Hudson (12 points, but on 13 shots), but it was the Gators’ defense that clamped down on Mississippi State all night.

The Bulldogs shot 40 percent from the field and made just five of 16 threes. Florida forced 16 turnovers, seven of them steals, and exploited an early disqualification for Aric Holman to hold the Bulldogs to just 14 points over the first 16 minutes of the second half.

Florida led by as many as 23 points during that stretch, before conceding a chunk of that lead in garbage time. But this was as comfortable a win against a defensive-minded team at home as Florida scored in its rout of Texas A&M — a completely different team — on the road last week.

And now, Florida can boast a 4-0 record in SEC play that no other team can currently match.