In the first half of Friday’s late shift, Mississippi State kept its Big Dance hopes alive by defeating Florida 75-69. The Bulldogs controlled the game from the start, rolling up a 10-0 lead before the Gators managed to score a point. The lead expanded to as much as 19 in the second half before Florida staged a comeback. UF came up short though as MSU’s Barry Stewart made five three throws down the stretch to keep the game out of reach.
All five Bulldog starters ended up in double digits, led by Stewart’s 17. Jarvis Varnado contributed 15 points and 4 blocks to the cause. Florida’s guards carried much of the offensive load for a change, with Kenny Boynton’s 23 leading all scorers and Erving Walker putting in 19. The loss puts Florida in precarious position for the Big Dance, while Mississippi State still needs to beat Vanderbilt to be in serious discussions for inclusion.
Speaking of the Commodores, they had little real trouble in putting Georgia away 78-66. Vandy led for much of the game, though UGA staged a few rallies here and there. The better team began pulling away for good at about the 12 minute mark in the second half after Georgia had gotten to within four. Vandy pushed the lead as high as 14 before settling in on the 12 point final margin.
Georgia’s Travis Leslie did his best to keep the Bulldogs in the game, scoring 34 points in what is the high mark for the entire tournament so far. Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins countered with a career high 25, and Jermaine Beal supported him with 16 points and a game-high six assists.
Georgia’s season is over, while Vanderbilt continues on to fight for NCAA Tournament seeding.