GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer was concerned about playing at Florida.
The second-ranked Bulldogs were coming off an emotional rematch of last year’s national championship game and had Kentucky, a team they haven’t beaten since 2009, up next.
Schaefer was worried his players might get caught reveling in the past or looking to the future. It turned out to be typical coaching anxiety.
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Roshunda Johnson scored 22 points, Teaira McCowan notched her 17th double-double of the season and Mississippi State stayed undefeated with a 98-50 victory at Florida on Thursday night.
”Here we are 25-0 and it’s hard,” Schaefer said. ”It’s hard to get up every night. And in our league, if you don’t get up and get ready to play. … Very concerned coming in here.”
”This team is really good about staying in the moment,” he added.
Mississippi State showed that against the Gators. The Bulldogs (25-0, 11-0 Southeastern Conference) never trailed, hitting three 3-pointers to open the game and doubling up Florida on the scoreboard by the end of the third quarter.
Victoria Vivians added 17 points for Mississippi State, and Morgan William chipped in with 15.
McCowan finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, reaching double figures in both categories for the 13th time in the last 17 games.
”They just wear you down with the pressure, they wear you down physically, the style of play with how exhausting they make you play,” Florida coach Cam Newbauer said. ”Then all of a sudden you have to go box them out with their size and their athleticism. It’s just 40 minutes of non-stop, here-we-come basketball. It’s grueling.”
It led to another dominating performance by the Bulldogs, who were coming off a 14-point victory against No. 7 South Carolina. Mississippi State lost the title game and looks more than capable of getting another shot with a veteran team. Schaefer has a stacked starting lineup that can play with and beat anyone in the country – from inside or out.
The Bulldogs hit 10 of 20 3-pointers against Florida and scored 52 points in the paint.
”That’s the answer for us,” Schaefer said. ”That’s the secret to our success. If we can do that, we’ve got a chance to win every night.”
The Gators (10-14, 2-9) kept it close early, but faded late in the second quarter. Mississippi State overwhelmed Florida with a 34-5 run that turned a three-point game into a laugher.
The Bulldogs did whatever they wanted during the spurt, getting easy baskets off turnovers and finding wide-open 3s.
Funda Nakkasoglu led the Gators with 17 points, but also had six of the team’s 23 turnovers. Mississippi State scored 37 points off those miscues.
”I feel like our offense came from our defense,” Johnson said.
Mississippi State: Anything short of returning to the national championship game will be disappointing for the Bulldogs, who are using that loss to South Carolina in the title game as motivation.
Florida: Despite mounting losses, the Gators are showing signs of improvement in Newbauer’s first season. Coming off a two-point loss at No. 15 Missouri, Florida hung tough with the Bulldogs until Mississippi State took control late in the second quarter.
Mississippi State: Hosts Kentucky on Sunday. The Bulldogs have lost 11 straight in the series.