Richard powers Florida past Mississippi State

Richard powers Florida past Mississippi State


10 hours ago Florida Athletics

What Happened

Junior guard Will Richard scored 18 of his team-high 23 points in the first half to help Florida build a big lead, but the Gators had to work to finish off Mississippi State in their Southeastern Conference game Wednesday night at Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center. Four UF players players combined to go 8-for-9 from the free-throw line over the final 1:32 to stave off the Bulldogs, who trailed by 17 with just over sevens minutes to go, but rallied to make it two-possession game with just over three minutes to go. Richard’s performance was a season-high in league play and came on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor, plus four of seven from the 3-point line and also came with a season-best nine rebounds over 35 minutes. Grad-transfer guard Zyon Pullin stuffed his stat line with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists over 35 minutes, while junior guard Walter Clayton Jr., who left the game early in the second half with a wrist injury, returned to finish with 15 points, including two 3s with his hand wrapped, five rebounds and 6-for-6 night from the free-throw line. Grad forward Tyrese Samuel added 12 points and eight boards. UF shot 42 percent for the game and just 8-for-25 from distance (32 percent), but went 1-for-10 from the floor over the final 4-plus minutes, but the combination of freshman forward Alex Condon (4 points, 6 rebounds), Pullin and Clayton combined to make all eight of their must free throws down the stretch. Mississippi State, which was held to 38.7 for the game and just 8-for-33 from distance (24.2 percent) was paced by freshman guard Josh Hubbard’s 26 points, plus 10 points and 10 rebounds from forward Tolu Smith III, who fouled out late.

What it MeansUF evened its SEC record through six games and now is on a two-game winning streak in league play (and three wins in the last four), which is good, of course. But also, Mississippi State represents — either by the eye test or the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ratings at No. 40 in the country — the best team Florida has defeated this season. The Gators improved to 5-0 in Quadrant 2 games, per the NET.

In the SpotlightRichard came into the game averaging 8.2 points (with a high of 13) on 28.6-percent shooting overall and just 8-for-30 from the 3-point line (26.7 percent). Those numbers went up.

Staggering Statistic The Gators have been poor all season at the free-throw line. They finished 17 of 20. That’s 85 percent. That’s encouraging. That’s how you close out a game.

Up NextFlorida (13-6, 3-3) is back at home Saturday for a high-noon showdown against Georgia (14-5, 4-2), as former UF coach Mike White makes his second visit back to the O’Dome since leaving Gainesville for Athens in March 2022. The Bulldogs are off to a very good start — two wins from equaling the 16 they won in ’22-23 — and Wednesday defeated LSU 68-66 at home. Meanwhile, Mississippi State 13-6, 2-4) will play host to league-leading Auburn.


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