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Pre-game at O'Connell Center 2011-12: Game No. 22 - No. 18 Mississippi State at No. 14 Florida

 

Matt Stevens

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 14 Florida (16-4, 3-1 in SEC play) at No. 18 Mississippi State (17-4, 4-2), 12:30 p.m., Site: O'Connell Center; TV: SEC Network 

 

 

 

Current Line: Florida by 9.5 

 

 

 

Since we're a few hours away from tipoff let's count down the early subplots of tonight's contest before The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog arrives today.  

 

 

 

- The battle in the post 

 

While they won't likely match up one-on-one against each other for much of the afternoon, the key to this contest could be which post threat has the more dominant performance. Mississippi State junior Arnett Moultrie matched a career high with 28 points against LSU, boosting his team-best scoring average to 17.1. The SEC's leading rebounder (11.2 per game) also grabbed 12 boards for his 12th double-double and fourth in a row. The 6-foot-11 transfer from the University of Texas at El Paso is a major reason MSU helped themselves with a 46-26 advantage on the boards. 

 

It is unclear if Florida sophomore center Patric Young will return to the starting lineup as he's come off the bench in the past three games because of ankle tendinitis but has played significant minutes in the last two games. Young scored 15 points off the bench in a 64-60 win at Ole Miss Thursday night. 

 

Donovan said the tendinitis in Patric Young's right ankle shouldn't cause the sophomore center to miss any games. 

 

"There's no structural damage. There's no ligament damage," Donovan said. "He's just got some pretty significant inflammation in the area that's causing a problem. I think the best thing for him right now is rest, but there's nothing there for him that's going to keep him out of games or prevent him from playing. It's just a significant case [of tendinitis] and a pretty severe case of it." 

 

 

 

- Another Dee Bost vs. Erving Walker matchup but this time the Gators PG has help 

 

The historical statistics have said Bost has confidence against the Gators senior lead guard. Last year less than 48 hours after having his front teeth bonded together after catching an elbow in a home loss to Vanderbilt, Bost responded by leading all players with 24 points and five assists in 38 minutes. 

 

This season he'll have to be even more critical to the Bulldogs (17-4, 4-2 in Southeastern Conference) success as freshman backup point guard DeVille Smith is not expected to make the trip to Gainesville against the 14th-ranked Gators program that will constantly run talented guards at MSU's Bob Cousy Award finalist. 

 

"We know their guards and they know us but it should be a good matchup," Bost said after MSU's 76-71 victory vs. LSU Wednesday night. 

 

his season Florida has the ability to run four guards (Walker, junior leading scorer Kenny Boynton, freshman Brad Beal and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario) that average over eight points per game into its rotation of perimeter threats. 

 

It was the hot second-half shooting that allowed Florida to avoid a mid-week upset loss at Tad Smith Coliseum against Ole Miss. 

 

 

 

- Can MSU improve its NCAA Tournament resume with a solid road win against a Top 20 team? 

 

According to the numbers accumulated Friday morning, MSU has an RPI number right now of 35 - in the neighborhood of solid status for an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament but wins over top talent and ranked teams especially away from Starkville would look even sweeter 

 

in a few months when the selection committee meets in Indianapolis. 

 

Right now the Bulldogs are 3-2 versus the RPI Top 50 with wins over West Virginia, Alabama and Vanderbilt currently on its resume. 

 

"Anytime you can win on the road it is special," Stansbury said. "It isn't easy to do. However, like all games, it counts as one win. Don't get too high, don't get too low. It is a good accomplishment but it just counts as one win." 

 

 

 

- Scouting Florida 

 

Senior point guard Erving Walker is the longest tenured player on the team having appeared in 127 consecutive games with 66-straight starts. A shoot-first player much of his career, Walker has been tasked with distributing the ball and managing the game this year. He is the SEC's active leader in minutes (3,807) and treys (259) but also ranks second in points (1,585), assists (479), steals (145) and free throws made (392). Walker is No. 7 on the school's all-time scoring list, No. 3 in assists, No. 8 in free throws, No. 4 in threes made, No. 2 in treys attempted (671) and No. 5 in minutes. He is also hitting a team-best 82.1 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe while averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 assists per game. 

 

Junior guard Kenny Boynton is a dynamic scorer and just the second starter returning from a year ago. Boynton is working on his consistency this season and is already shooting better than he has throughout his career (48.8 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from downtown). He is the best defender on the Gators and is often put on the opponent's best backcourt playmaker (i.e. Dee Bost). Boynton currently ranks fifth in the SEC among active players in points (1,361) and third in three-pointers (222). He had hit a trey in 34-straight games and is the SEC's second-leading scorer averaging 18.0 points per game. Boynton is No. 6 on UF's list for threes made. 

 

Freshman guard Brad Beal was the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year, one of the top five players in the country, and is arguably the most talented player to sign with the Gators since Donovan took over. He is averaging 13.9 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 72.6 percent from the line (third-best on the team) while playing a team-high 33.6 minutes per game. 

 

Sophomore center Patric Young joined the starting lineup this year after being the primary frontcourt reserve as a freshman. Young saw action in all 37 games as a freshman, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in limited action. He has four double-doubles on the season and scored a career-high 25 points against Arizona. Young is posting averages of 11.4 points, 6.8 boards and 1.1 blocks per game. 

 

Forwards junior Erik Murphy and sophomore Will Yeguete are trying to be do-everything players for Florida. Murphy is posting averages of 10.4 points and 4.2 boards with team-highs of 1.3 blocks and 47.5 percent accuracy from three. Yeguete is averaging 4.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 22.0 minutes per game. 

 

Redshirt junior G Mike Rosario scored more than 1,000 points in two seasons with Rutgers and averaged 16.7 points per game during his sophomore year. He is the Gators sixth man and is seeing 16.2 minutes of court time each game, averaging 8.5 points while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. 

 

 

 

All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.

 

 

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