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MVSU-Florida Preview

AP - Sports

Florida is coming off its most impressive win of the season, but the beginning of a busy week off the court has coach Billy Donovan wary of a letdown.

Especially since the team experienced one last season in a similar situation.

Donovan figures to have the 11th-ranked Gators on upset alert as they return to Gainesville to face Mississippi Valley State on Monday night.

After losing its first two tries this season against Top 25 teams, Florida (8-2) received an outstanding effort from its guards in an 84-64 win over then-No. 22 Texas A&M in Sunrise, Fla., on Saturday.

Kenny Boynton scored 22 points while Erving Walker and Bradley Beal each added 16. The three combined to shoot 9 of 24 from 3-point range.

The Gators led 50-25 at halftime.

"I thought the first half was the best we've played all year," Donovan said. "We shared it. We passed it. We moved it. We had inside-outside action."

Florida is third in Division I with 86.5 points per game and hits a nation-high 11.3 3-pointers per game. With so many weapons, few opponents have been able to slow down the Gators, who have scored fewer than 78 points only twice.

Boynton is leading the way with 19.0 points per game and shooting 46.3 percent from beyond the arc, making 11 of his last 21 3-pointers.

Given how well Boynton and his teammates are playing, it seems difficult to understand Donovan's concern about this week, especially since it begins with a game against Mississippi Valley State (1-8), which is giving up 83.6 points per game - third-most in the nation.

The Gators, however, were in a similar situation last season. After defeating No. 6 Kansas State on Dec. 18, 2010, they came out flat two days later and lost 71-68 in overtime at home to Jacksonville.

"For anybody that's coaching, this is a hard time of the year," Donovan said. "This time of year, it's not the physical part, because these guys are in good shape. It's the mental part. With all the pressure and stress they have with school, games, people leaving, holidays, all those things they have to manage."

Unlike Jacksonville, which was 6-3 at the time, Mississippi Valley State doesn't seem like much of a threat. Its only win came in double overtime against Tennessee State on Nov. 25.

"We learned our lesson," said Boynton, who had a team-high four of Florida's 17 turnovers in last season's loss to the Dolphins. "All the rest of us know the focus we need to have over the next couple of days."

After facing Mississippi Valley State, the Gators host Florida State, which fell out of the Top 25 last month, on Thursday.

First, they'll take on a rested-Delta Devils team that's lost four straight, including an 80-56 defeat at Mississippi on Dec. 10.

The Delta Devils, who haven't played a game at home this season, have played eight true road games, including a 101-75 loss to then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 20. They have dropped 10 straight away from home by an average of 17 points.

Junior center Paul Crosby leads Mississippi Valley State with 14.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He is averaging 19.2 points in the last five games.

This is the first meeting between the programs. The Gators are 5-0 against teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

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