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Florida survives scare, holds off Mississippi State

Jan 25, 2007 - 7:02 AM STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Florida's experience played a vital role down the stretch against Mississippi State.

Corey Brewer scored 20 points and Al Horford added nine and 14 rebounds to lead the top-ranked Gators to a 70-67 triumph over the Bulldogs in an Southeastern Conference matchup.

With the game knotted at 62-62, Taurean Green nailed a 3-pointer with 3:47 remaining to put defending national champion Florida (18-2, 5-0 SEC East) up for good.

"It was a big shot," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. "If I remember correctly, we were still in zone. We got back into the game playing zone, just to change the tempo and keep the ball from going inside. That is what great players do and he may be the best point guard in America. Green making that shot was not a surprise."

Jamont Gordon's layup with five seconds left closed Mississippi State within one, but Green converted two free throws to seal the victory.

During a see-saw battle in the second half, the Bulldogs (11-7, 2-3 West) scored the first two buckets to open the final 20 minutes to increase their halftime lead to 37-29 with 18:54 to play.

The Gators, however, followed with a 10-1 run to pull ahead 39-38 on a pair of free throws by Brewer.

Florida continued to add to the lead, going up 62-53 on two free throws by Horford with 6:00 remaining before Mississippi State charged back with a 9-0 spurt to knot the contest at 62-62 with 4:24 left.

"I think this team is still learning and still getting better," Gators coach Billy Donovan said. "This league is so tough though, you never get a night off. I did not come here today thinking this game was going to be easy, or that Saturday's game is going to be easy. No single game is easy in this league. The SEC clearly does not get enough respect across the country."

Gordon finished with 17 points and Barry Stewart added 16 for the Bulldogs, who shot 37 percent (23-of-63) from the field.

Seeking to extend an eight-game home winning streak, Mississippi State started strong. It used an 11-2 run midway through the first half to take a 19-10 lead and held on for a 33-29 halftime advantage.

"We proved as a young basketball team that we can go against the best in the country," Stansbury said. "When we fight and play with that kind of passion, we have an opportunity against anybody and that is all you ask is to have a chance."