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Ole Miss 78, Florida 72: Gators’ win streak ends with stumble on road

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The Gators couldn’t get a shot to fall, couldn’t get a stop, and couldn’t get a call.

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

The Florida Gators played one of their best defensive games of the season on Wednesday against Mississippi State.

On Saturday, they played possibly their worst — and missed basically everything down the stretch, and drowned in a flood of fouls that appeared to have little relation to the game being played.

So they lost to Ole Miss, 77-72, and that six-game winning streak that had many hoping these Gators had turned the corner is no more.

Keith Stone played the best game of his career, scoring a career-high 23 points and snaring eight rebounds — but he probably should have had an even bigger game, given that he failed on a few ill-conceived drives, and failed to get some calls that would have gotten him even more than the 18 free throws he shot, making 13.

Beyond that? The bright spots for Florida on offense were few. Egor Koulechov had 11 points, but needed 15 shots to get them. Jalen Hudson scored 11 points on seven shots but spent the day in foul trouble, eventually fouling out. And KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza combined for 12 points, with Allen scoring five on nine shots and Chiozza’s seven not getting to nine on a blown layup late helping to stake the Gators in the heart.

Of course, Ole Miss driving and throwing it into the heart of Florida’s defense did plenty in that regard. The Rebels got 22 points from plodding forward Bruce Stevens, who abused Kevarrius Hayes in the post, and a combined 37 points from Deandre Burnett and Markel Crawford, who spent the day dancing around Gators defenders.

Foul trouble for Hayes and a concussion for Gorjok Gak left the Gators undermanned underneath, so Stevens’s success made sense — but Florida’s lack of foot speed and discipline on defense against those fleet guards was a disappointment, given how well Florida had defended drivers for stretches of its win streak. And though the refereeing, as has been the case for much of this year, left much to be desired — a phantom out of bounds call on Hudson led to an Ole Miss three, a foul on Stone was called a clean block late, and those were just the two most egregious calls of the day — the Gators’ effort on the defensive end was primarily left Florida on the losing end of the game.

Now, instead of flying into their fourth week of SEC play undefeated, the Gators must once again regroup and figure out how to fortify a flagging defense, one that promises to submarine a promising season if its leaks are not plugged.