Florida Mauls MSU In Gainesville - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Florida Mauls MSU In Gainesville

After two weeks of soul-searching, Florida is back on track. The fifth-ranked Gators snapped a three-game losing streak with a 76-48 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday, as Matt Bonner had 25 points _ 20 in the first half _ and eight rebounds. ``There are two ways you can deal with adversity: you can either go in the jar, or you can overcome it and become better,'' said Bonner, who made his first seven shots, including five 3-pointers. ``I think we came together as a team the last few days in practice, not just on the court. Trusting each other, having each other's backs. We decided that we are a team _ not just a group.'' The Gators (16-4, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) scored the game's first 10 points and led by as many as 29 points en route to a 47-20 halftime lead. Their biggest lead in the second half was 33 points. Bonner shot 9-for-16, including 6-of-9 on 3-pointers. Only an airball on a desperation 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded kept him from a perfect opening half. ``Matt Bonner was the product of being in the right place at the right time,'' Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ``I wanted him to shoot the ball with a great deal of confidence, I wanted him to score, I wanted him to be offensive-minded and I wanted him to be aggressive. That's what he did tonight.'' Udonis Haslem added 16 points, 10 in the second half, and 10 rebounds for Florida, while Brett Nelson had seven points, six assists and five rebounds. Mississippi State (17-5, 4-4) set season-worsts for points in a game and half. Mario Austin's 10 points led the Bulldogs.

The key to the victory was Florida's hustling defense, which forced 20 turnovers _ 16 in the first half. ``We helped them earn that basketball game,'' Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. ``We added to it, and Florida is good enough without us adding to it.'' In the game's opening 8:08, Mississippi State turned the ball over 10 times _ seven on Florida steals _ which the Gators cashed in for 17 of their first 23 points. The Bulldogs then trailed by 14 points, and never again came closer than 11. After Mississippi State crept within 23-12, Bonner put the game away with 11 straight points over a three-minute span. He began the run with a three-point play, hit a mid-range jumper, and his consecutive 3-pointers gave Florida a 34-12 lead 7:08 before halftime Florida got off to a blazing start by taking advantage of the Bulldogs' multitude of miscues. Mississippi State committed turnovers on its first four possessions and Justin Hamilton's 3-pointer made it 10-0 just 2:22 into the game. Florida is 51-43 against Mississippi State, including a 34-11 record in Gainesville.

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