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January 26, 2012OXFORD, Miss. (AP)-Florida's Kenny Boynton had read his scouting report on Mississippi. The synopsis: The Rebels play defense, but can't shoot.
That proved true-eventually.
The 14th-ranked Gators clawed back from a double-digit first-half deficit to beat Mississippi 64-60 on Thursday night. Patric Young scored 15 points and Boynton added 12 as Florida won for the sixth time in seven games.
"The best thing for us was we never panicked," Boynton said. "We were playing defense but they hit shots. They hit tough shots and were just killing it. In the second half we guarded the 3-point line a little better, but really, it was just kind of the law of averages."
Boynton admitted keeping cool was tough when Ole Miss was draining 3-pointers in the first half-hitting all six of its attempts from long range in front of a raucous crowd at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Florida (16-4, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) fell behind 20-4 in the opening minutes and trailed 38-28 at halftime. But the Gators worked their way back thanks to lockdown defense and clutch 3-pointers from Boynton and Mike Rosario.
Young was 7 of 10 from the field off the bench despite playing with tendinitis in his right ankle. Erving Walker had 10 points and nine assists.
"I thought that our guys stayed the course," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I never thought they got rattled or overwhelmed."
Terrance Henry had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Mississippi (13-7, 3-3), while Nick Williams added 14 points. The Rebels shot 60.9 percent from the field in the first half. They couldn't duplicate that success in the second half, making just 8 of 29 (27.6 percent) from the field.
Ole Miss got the pace it wanted from the very beginning, forcing Florida into a half-court, physical game. That negated the Gators' one major strength- superior guard play-and they struggled to find open 3-point looks for much of the game.
The Rebels went on a 14-0 run to take a 20-4 lead in the first 8 minutes before settling for the 10-point halftime lead. They made 14 of 23 shots from the field in the first half, and had an uncharacteristic good touch from long range. Williams hit four of the team's six 3-pointers, knocking the Gators on their heels.
"Williams was incredible," Boynton said. "But we knew they had to miss at some point."
Ole Miss came into the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the SEC, making just 27.2 percent.
But Florida slowly climbed back into the game in the second half behind Young and some well-timed 3-pointers, including Scottie Wilbekin's with 10:11 remaining that tied the game at 46. Young's dunk gave the Gators a 48-46 lead- their first since the opening minutes.
While Florida was heating up, shooting 52 percent in the second half, the Ole Miss offense was grinding to a halt and the 3-point shooting reverted to previous form. The Rebels scored only eight points in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
"You're not going to win many games shooting 27 percent (in the second half) in your own building," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "Our inability to make a play to stop the bleeding put us in a tough spot."
Rosario put the Gators ahead for good with 5:29 remaining, draining a 3-pointer for a 53-52 lead. Boynton gave Florida some separation minutes later, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to 59-54.
Ole Miss pulled within 63-60 with 18 seconds remaining and had a chance to tie. But Florida's defense slapped the ball away from Marcus Aniefiok, who was trying to find room to take a 3-pointer, and Brad Beal hit a free throw that sealed the victory.
The Gators won despite being outrebounded 41-23.