Mississippi St.-Florida Preview

The Associated Press

Florida coach Billy Donovan and Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury both admired their respective teams' most recent efforts.

Only Stansbury emerged happy from last season's meeting between these SEC rivals.

The 18th-ranked Bulldogs seek to beat the Gators again and end No. 14 Florida's 16-game home winning streak Saturday afternoon.

The Gators (16-4, 4-1) fell behind 20-4 in the first eight minutes Thursday at Mississippi and trailed by 10 at halftime before rallying for a 64-60 victory. Patric Young had 15 points and Kenny Boynton added 12 as Florida won its fourth in a row.

"These guys battled and showed a level of resiliency, I'll tell you that," Donovan told the school's official website. "They kept their composure."

The Gators are one win shy of matching their longest overall streak of the season, but their 16-game run at home is much more impressive. Florida hasn't lost in Gainesville since a 72-69 defeat to South Carolina on Jan. 15, 2011, prevailing by an average of 20 points in their home games since.

Saturday, though, presents a serious challenge.

"We have a good home record this year but that doesn't mean anything (Saturday)," Donovan said. "Ole Miss had a great record at home. They hadn't lost a home game until (Thursday)."

Mississippi State (17-4, 4-2) has won four of the last five overall meetings with the Gators and two of its last four visits to the O'Connell Center. Last January, the Bulldogs allowed then-No. 24 Florida to erase an early 10-point deficit but managed to hang on for a 71-64 home victory.

Dee Bost paced Mississippi State with 24 points, while Erving Walker had a team-best 18 for the Gators despite missing 11 of 18 shots.

The Bulldogs have won their last two games following a 75-68 loss at Ole Miss on Jan. 18. They survived a back-and-forth contest at Vanderbilt and won 78-77 in overtime last Saturday, and held off a late charge from LSU for a 76-71 victory Wednesday at home.

Mississippi State led the Tigers by nine points with 1:50 remaining, but that advantage dwindled to one with 15 seconds left. The Bulldogs held on by making eight of their final 10 free throws and helped themselves with a 46-26 advantage on the boards.

"We did not have our edge (Wednesday), but you are not going to have your edge every night," Stansbury said. "You've got to find a way to survive when you're not at your best. We found a way to do it."

Arnett Moultrie matched a career high with 28 points, 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.

Now, the junior transfer from UTEP will try to help his team move above .500 on the road for the first time this season.

"It's never easy going on the road, and Florida is certainly one of those places that has proven to be difficult to play," Stansbury said. "We can't get caught up in the crowd. And at the same time, we know we have to be at our best to have a chance."

The Gators held on to beat Mississippi State 69-62 on Feb. 6, 2010, the most recent meeting in Gainesville.

Each of the last six games between these teams has been decided by single digits.

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