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    Wednesday SEC Basketball Central

    Wednesday Men's Hoops RESULTS
    Florida 74, South Carolina 58
    Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 63
    Georgia 70, Mizzou 64
    Texas A&M 69, Arkansas 53

    Florida Pushes Home Win Streak to 24 Games

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The lead was 13 early on and maybe, just maybe, the Florida Gators dared to think Wednesday night’s Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina, an opponent with barely a winning record, would turn into a laugher along the lines of last year’s meeting. 
    Flashback: the Gamecocks scored 10 points in the first half and were drummed by 39. 
    The 10th-ranked Gators learned quickly, however that the Gamecocks weren’t rolling over this time-- especially when the visitors cut an 18-point lead to eight three times in the second half – but Florida summoned the energy for a 74-58 victory, the team’s fifth straight, before a crowd of 12,147 at the O’Connell Center. 
    Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin scored 17 points to lead the Gators (12-2, 1-0) before rolling his right ankle late in the game and being carried off the floor. Wilbekin was walking on his own afterward, but UF coach Billy Donovan said his playmaker’s status would be re-evaluated Thursday. 
    Patric Young scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while senior forward Casey Prather threw in 13 more. Together, the two combined to go 11-for-12 from the floor and helped UF shoot 57.8 percent for the game, despite a tough night (5-for-19) from the 3-point line. 
    It was the Gamecocks’ field-goal percentage, though, that caught Donovan’s attention. 
    South Carolina (7-7, 0-1) may have shot just 43.9 percent for the game, including a woeful 31.6 in the first half, but the Gamecocks made three of their last four shots before halftime, then seven of their first 10 after the break. 
    Meanwhile, in UF’s last 10 possession of the first half, the Gators scored just six points. 
    “That’s terrible,” Young said. 
    And it was brought up on the bench, again in the locker room and remained a topic of conversation while the Gamecocks were hovering around the 8-point margin. 
    “We got off to such a great start in the game. I mean, we’re up 14-1,” said UF assistant Matt McCall, charged with the advance scout for the game. “So it’s like we decided to take a deep breath or something. Hey guys! It’s the SEC! Keep playing!” 
    South Carolina did. 
    “Our young kids were tight and nervous,” said USC coach Frank Martin, whose team lost 75-36 here last year in a game it trailed 33-10 at halftime. “My biggest concern going into this game was that first five or six minutes. Exactly what I was hoping didn’t happen, happened.” 
    But unlike last year’s squad, this one kept playing; kept coming after the Gators. 
    The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Gators 28-25, holding UF to just five on the offensive glass. But 21 turnovers were converted into 22 Florida points and helped the home team muddle through an offense that lacked body movement at times and got caught too often staring at USC’s zone rather than ball-faking and carving at it. 
    Still, the Gators led just 52-42 at the 10-minute mark when Michael Frazier II (8 points, 4 rebounds) nailed a 3-pointer that kicked in a 12-0 run in a little less than three minutes to push the margin back out to 22. Young had a steal and coast-to-coast layup, Wilbekin a 3-pointer, Will Yeguete two free throws and Frazier another shot from the corner. 
    Just like that, things were cozy again. 
    “I don’t know what it is, but we have a very, very hard time sustaining intensity,” Donovan said. “We inevitably let teams get back in games and we’re going to have to do something to get that resolved and corrected. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s starting to become a theme ... and I’m starting to get irritated by it.” 
    There's plenty of time to work on it, though. 
    Florida will be back at work Thursday -- Wilbekin’s status for practice is questionable -- and the UF coaches will try to get Donovan’s message across in time for a visit to Arkansas, a team that has won 23 in a row at home and one that smashed the Gators there from the opening tip last season. 
    “We have to be locked and focused on our goals,” Young said. “And not only winning a game, but helping ourselves get better every day.” 

    Kentucky Pulls Away From Mississippi State

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mississippi State played one of its best first halves of the season.
    Still, it was not enough to lift the Bulldogs to a victory in their Southeastern Conference men’s basketball opener.
    MSU surrendered the three-point halftime lead and dropped an 85-63 decision to No. 14 Kentucky before a crowd of 23,638 in the Rupp Arena.
    “We did a really good job of executing the game plan and competing as a team,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “(Kentucky has) better individual talent. When you play a team like that, you have to offset that by playing together as a team.
    “I thought we did that in the first half. In the second half, we went more on our own and we aren’t a team that can have a lot of success when we do that.”
    The Bulldogs (10-4 overall, 0-1 conference) scored the game’s first five points and quickly built a 12-2 lead with less than five minutes played. Overplaying the passing lanes and forcing turnovers, the Bulldogs played spirited.
    Kentucky (11-3, 1-0) was still down 10 at 18-8 before fighting back with 14-2 run for its first lead at 22-20 on two free throws by Dominique Hawkins with 7:25 left in the half.
    Not deterred, the Bulldogs quickly fought back and took a six point lead by scoring six points on one possession. Roquez Johnson dunked and drew a flagrant foul. Playing for Johnson, Colin Borchert hit both free throws. Jacoby Davis followed with a layup for a 34-28 lead with 3:12 left in the half.
    Trivante Bloodman scored as the half expired to push the MSU advantage to 40-37 at halftime.
    In the second half, MSU trailed 54-51 with 13:11 left to play after a basket by Johnson. The Bulldogs then missed seven straight shots from the field as the Wildcats seized control with a game-changing 20-2 run.
    A lack of depth and foul trouble hurt the Bulldogs’ chances to mount a series counter-attack to the big run.
    “I told the guys after the game that was it going to be disappointing that no one will know how well they played in the first half, because we didn’t give ourselves a chance in the second half,” Ray said. “People will see the final score and not realize how hard we played and competed. We just quit doing some of the things that were allowing us to be successful.”
    For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 57 shots from the field (40.4 percent), 3 of 11 shots from 3-point range (27.3 percent) and 14 of 18 shots from the foul line (77.8 percent). The Wildcats hit 30 of 61 shots from the field (49.2 percent), 4 of 20 shots from 3-point range (20.0 percent) and 21 of 33 shots from the foul line (63.6 percent).
    Kentucky held a 44-28 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Wildcats had 18 assists and 12 turnovers.
    Craig Sword led MSU with 19 points, while Bloodman had 13 points and Johnson had 12 points. Ware pulled down 10 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
    UK received a double-double from James Young (26 points, 10 rebounds). Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress each had 12 points. Julius Randle had a game-high 14 rebounds.

    Georgia Fights Back to Down Mizzou

    Columbia, Mo.----Georgia snapped the nation’s longest home winning streak and claimed a Southeastern Conference opening win as the Bulldogs knocked off No. 21 Missouri 70-64 in overtime at Mizzou Arena.  Georgia moves to 7-6 on the season.
    The victory ended Missouri’s 26-game home winning streak that stretched back to February 21, 2012. It was also Georgia’s first ever win against the Tigers.
    Charles Mann led the Bulldogs in scoring with 18 points while Nemanja Djurisic added 16 points and Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris contributed 11 and 10 points respectively. Morris tallied a team high seven rebounds in 29 minutes while Mann and Marcus Thornton added 6 boards. 
    “I’m really proud of our team. I’ve been critical of the defense, their rebounding, and their toughness and tonight those three things won it for us,” said Georgia head coach Mark Fox. “I wasn’t their yesterday but our staff did a great job preparing our team. We had the right mentality when we came to the game tonight. I thought we were very attached mentally to our game plan and had very few mistakes. We gathered ourselves and Nemi (Djurisic) recomposed himself and we finished the game really well.”
    The Bulldogs victory came as they fought back from a five point hole early in the overtime period. After an Earnest Ross free throw gave the Tigers a 63-58 lead, Djurisic began finding success in the low post as the visitors ball movement began to take effect on Missouri. 
    Three Djurisic baskets led the Bulldogs into a 63-63 tie at the 1:40 mark and from there Georgia would not trail again. A Mann layup which showcased incredible balance and tenacity gave Georgia the 65-63 lead. From there the Bulldogs, who struggled from the free-throw line most of the game, caught fire from the charity stripe and closed out the game. 
    Georgia finished the contest on a 12-1 run over the final 2:30.
    The visitors quickly jumped out to a 8-0 half-time lead that forced the Tigers into an early time-out. Gaines provided much of the early spark for the Bulldogs as he collected a basket, an assist and a steal to help proper the visitors to the early advantage. 
    Missouri trimmed the Georgia lead to one point at the 10:16 mark after a Jabari Brown layup pulled the Tigers back to 15-14. The Bulldogs fell behind for the first and only point in the first period with 5:56 remaining as the hosts went ahead 19-20.
    From there Djurisic pulled Georgia back into a dominant position as he hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Bulldogs on top 25-20. A layup from Donte Williams and a 3 from Gaines gave Georgia its biggest lead of the half at 30-20. While the Tigers were able to pull the deficit back to 30-25 at the half-time buzzer, it was the Bulldogs running to the locker room buzzing with energy. 
    The Bulldogs were led in first half scoring by Djurisic with nine points, while Williams collected four boards in the first stanza. Gaines’s two steals led the Bulldogs as they forced eight Tigers turnovers.
    After dominating large stretches of the first half the Bulldogs struggled to keep a hold on the game as Missouri pulled themselves back into the game, going ahead for the first time in the period at the 15:14 mark on a 3-pointer by Earnest Ross. 
    Georgia pulled level at the 6:55 mark on a Brandon Morris layup followed by a Gaines layup to give the Bulldogs the lead once again. Even as the hosts pulled out to a three point lead the visitors refused to give up pulled ahead 56-53 before a Jordan Clarkson 3-pointer sent the contest to overtime. 
    The Bulldogs return to action when they welcome the Alabama Crimson Tide to Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday with tip-off scheduled for 4 PM ET. The game will be televised live on SEC TV.

    Texas A&M Downs Arkansas to Open SEC Schedule

    FAYETTEVILLE - The Razorbacks dropped their first SEC contest on the road at Texas A&M, trailing by double digits for the first time in seven games in a 69-53 loss.
    Junior Rashad Madden was the Razorbacks' sole double-digit scorer, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-6 from the field as well as two assists and two rebounds. Freshman Bobby Portis was held to seven points after scoring in double digits the last nine consecutive games.
    Senior Coty Clarke grabbed 10 boards to lead Arkansas, who was out rebounded 48-32. The Razorbacks were held to under 40 percent shooting in the second half for the first time this season. This road contest also marked the firs time Arkansas did not score 70+ points in a contest. 
    The Razorbacks will return to Bud Walton Arena to face the #10 Florida Gators on Saturday. Tip-off is slated for 12 p.m.