Ole Miss (10-7, 3-2 SEC) handed the Florida Gators their first conference loss of the season today, winning 78-72 inside the Pavilion behind a dominating performance by junior Bruce Stevens, who ended the game with 22 points and 6 rebounds.
“For about the last 10 days or two weeks, our emphasis has been trying to get the ball to the paint,” Ole Miss Head Coach Andy Kennedy said. “Sometimes you can do that off the pass, especially if Bruce (Stevens) is in there, or off the bounce. Our biggest problem has been we try to attack the strong side of the floor, and ball movement hasn’t been as good. I thought today the ball turned, which allowed us to have some driving lanes. Obviously, when Bruce is in the game, we are trying to play through him, especially if it is a one-on-one situation. So we are trying to make sure he touches it. Anytime I say, ‘touch,’ I am telling our guards to let the big guys touch it, and today we had an opportunity to do that and were able to get the ball to Bruce, and he made big plays for us.”
Stevens got things going at the 18:50 mark for the Rebels with a three-pointer that tied the game at 3-3. Both teams would play a closely contested game for most of the first half.
The Gators got out to a 17-10 lead at the 12:05 mark before the Rebels were able to climb back into the game. Ole Miss took the lead back at 27-25 when Marcanvis Hymon hit a pair of free throws with 3:03 left in the half.
The Rebels pushed their lead out to 31-28 before Florida drained a three-pointer by KeVaughn Allen to knot the game up at 31 apiece as both teams headed into the dressing rooms.
The second half of action was much like the first, with each team matching the other in scoring. Florida jumped out to its biggest lead of the game by 8 points at 52-44. But Ole Miss got back-to-back three-pointers by Markell Crawford and Deandre Burnett to make it 52-50.
Burnett and Crawford both finished the game with 20 and 17 points respectively.
Stevens pushed the Rebels’ lead out to 70-65 – with 4:05 left in the game – with two clutch free throws. Florida could not regain the lead as Ole Miss’ defense closed the door.
Ole Miss shot 43.1 percent from the field and held the Gators to only 37.7 percent in the game. From beyond the arc, Florida did outshoot the Rebels 34.5 to 33.3 percent. Ole Miss went 22-26 from the charity stripe at 84.6 percent, and UF hit 72.7 percent.
“As I told the team after, this really should be the new standard,” Kennedy said. “Florida was leading the SEC. They already went and blew out Texas A&M at A&M. They won at Missouri and have been playing great basketball.”
The Rebels return to action on Tuesday as they travel to College Station and face the Texas A&M Aggies.
Adam Brown is the sports editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.comHERE!