February 9, 2013 10:57:56 PM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The No. 2 University of Florida men's basketball team played without forward Will Yeguete, benched starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin, and received an injury scare from Erik Murphy.
It didn't matter against Mississippi State University.
Mike Rosario scored 18 points, Murphy added 17 before leaving with a sprained ankle and the Gators bounced back from a humbling loss earlier in the week to thump the short-handed Bulldogs 83-58 on Saturday.
The game looked every bit like a matchup of the Southeastern Conference's best and worst teams.
Then again, it wasn't nearly as lopsided as the 35-point beatdown Florida handed MSU on its home court two weeks ago.
"When we play like that, it's hard to beat us," guard Kenny Boynton said.
Casey Prather, playing in place of Yeguete, chipped in 12 points and five rebounds. Yeguete had arthroscopic surgery Friday to remove loose bodies in his right knee and will miss at least the rest of the regular season.
The Gators (19-3, 9-1 SEC) went 4-5 without him last season, but handled his absence much better against the Bulldogs.
"He's a big piece of our team that we lost," said Michael Frazier II, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds in his first career start. "But we've got to play together, play hard and try to make up for what he brought to the team."
MSU (7-15, 2-8) played without guard Jalen Steele, who didn't make the trip after being suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.
It was a big blow for a team already down three players.
Freshmen Andre Applewhite and Jacoby Davis are out for the season with knee injuries, and senior Wendell Lewis is sidelined with a fractured right patella.
So MSU came to Gainesville with six scholarship players and two walk-ons, not the ideal roster to upset the league's highest-ranked team.
The scoreboard proved it.
Gavin Ware led the Bulldogs, who have lost eight in a row, with 16 points. Colin Borchert added 14 and Trivante Bloodman had 10.
"It's really hard to take a loss," Borchert said. "We fought hard, and we are a no-excuse team."
Florida took a double-digit lead midway through the first half. Frazier had a lot to do with it, hitting his first three 3-pointers.
The Gators made it 36-18 on Murphy's baseline hook shot with 4 minutes, 27 seconds remaining before halftime. Murphy finished 7-of-10 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. It was a stark contrast to his last game, a 2-for-7 performance against Arkansas on Tuesday night.
The game really got lopsided after the break.
Florida, which led 42-26 after 20 minutes, scored the first 10 points of the second half. Wilbekin hit a 3, Boynton made a layup, Rosario hit a pull-up jumper and Murphy drained another from behind the arc.
Everything went right for the Gators.
It was the complete opposite of what happened Tuesday night at Arkansas.
Pat Young picked up two early fouls, Yeguete injured his knee, Murphy struggled shooting and turned the ball over four times, and Wilbekin took 15 shots for the second consecutive game.
Throw in Arkansas' hot-shooting start, and the Gators trailed by 20 points in the early going and never recovered.
On Saturday, they looked much more like the team that won 10 straight before that 80-69 loss to the Razorbacks.
One difference was that Wilbekin started the game on the bench.
"Just did not respond well at all in practice," Donovan said. "No energy. No enthusiasm. Tried to talk to him. Didn't get much of a response. And again, wasn't a bad attitude. Wasn't like he wasn't trying. Wasn't like he quit. Just not his normal Scottie Wilbekin self in practice. And it continued Friday.
"I just told him, I said, 'Listen, we're coming off of a tough loss against Arkansas. We need energy, passion, and if you're not going to play with passion, I'm going to start somebody else.'"
About the only other issue for Florida was Murphy's right ankle. He tweaked it with about 4 minutes to go in the game, but Donovan said he was fine.
"He tripped," Donovan joked. "I think the line was up; I think the O'Dome's got to push it down. He trips a lot."