GAINESVILLE -- Early in the week, Florida coach Billy Donovan called center Patric Young into his office for a little chat.
Donovan wanted Young to play with more energy, more passion and more enthusiasm.
Clearly, Young embraced the challenge.
Young scored 12 points off the bench, making several crowd-rousing plays in the second half, and No. 14 Florida beat No. 18 Mississippi State 69-57 Saturday to extend its home winning streak to 17 games.
“His energy really helped us on both ends of the floor,” Donovan said.
Bradley Beal led the Gators with 19 points. Erik Murphy added 14, including 11 in the first half, and Erving Walker finished with 10 thanks to a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining.
Coming off a physical game Thursday night at Mississippi, the Gators (17-4, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) started a little sluggish Saturday but really got things rolling in the second half. An 11-0 run sparked by Beal’s third 3-pointer and highlighted by Young’s two dunks turned a tight game into a double-digit affair.
Mississippi State (17-5, 4-3) trailed 62-47 after the spurt and never got within single digits. The Gators made enough plays down the stretch to secure their second win in six games against the Bulldogs.
Florida also improved to 5-1 in short-turnaround games (Thursday-Saturday) over the last three seasons.
“I’m not going to lie. I was a little nervous coming into this game,” Young said. “I’m sure we don’t have a good history since I’ve been here with these early games. They’re a good team. I thought, `Oh man, this is a really tough game.”’
Young and Florida’s 3-point shooting made it look easy in the second half.
Young made 6 of 11 shots and added six rebounds. He was active on both ends, grabbing three offensive boards, taking two charges and scoring in a variety of ways.
Still dealing with tendinitis in his right ankle, Young showed no issues with the nagging injury. He had three dunks and a putback in the final 12 minutes that helped turn the game. It started when he grabbed a rebound off Walker’s missed 3, slammed it home and screamed at the top of his lungs.
“Pat’s a competitor,” Beal said. “Coach (Donovan) is always pushing him to the extra limit and Pat’s willing to accept that. It really shows in Pat. Pat just comes out and just tires to do whatever it takes for him to push us to the limit and get us all going.”
Arnett Moultrie led Mississippi State with 12 points and 13 rebounds, notching his league-leading 13th double-double of the season before fouling out with 2:04 remaining. Dee Bost also scored 12 points.
The Gators used pressing, trapping defense to force the Bulldogs into 14 turnovers.
“They had a lot to do with us not playing our best,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said.
Florida trapped Bost on every pick-and-roll play, often forcing the ball out of his hands and trying to wear him down.
“They were communicating with each other and were out there on defense talking amongst themselves,” Bost said. “That’s a sign of a really good team.”
The biggest difference came at the 3-point line.
The Gators, who lead the nation in 3s, hit 11 of 24 from behind the arc.
“It seemed like 21, but it was only 11,” Stansbury said.
The Bulldogs were 7 of 16 from 3-point land, but they had no answer for Florida’s shooters.
Beal was 3 of 4 from behind the arc. Murphy proved to be even more dangerous, hitting 4 of 7 shots from that range.
“That’s why they lead the country in 3-point shooting,” Stansbury said. “There’s a reason why they have that stat.”
Florida’s leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, struggled against Bost and finished with two points on 1-for-6 shooting. But Boynton had five assists and no turnovers, an encouraging sign for Donovan.
“I was really proud of him,” Donovan said. “I think Kenny maybe would be a guy that would be upset a couple of years ago.”