Sat, 28 Jan 2023

Mississippi State, Florida relying on defense ahead of SEC tilt

Field Level Media
21 Jan 2023, 10:19 GMT+10

Reeling Mississippi State will look to get its season back on track when its hosts Florida on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

After an 11-0 start, the Bulldogs (12-6, 1-5 SEC) have dropped six of their last seven games under first-year coach Chris Jans.

Mississippi State is coming off a 70-59 loss to No. 9 Tennessee and is looking to break a three-game losing streak.

"We're a good basketball team," Jans said. "If we can stick together and stay the course, we'll have opportunities to win games in this league this year."

Mississippi State remains one of the top defensive teams in the SEC, ranking second in scoring defense (58.2 ppg allowed) and fourth in field-goal percentage defense (38.9 percent).

Offensively, Mississippi State has been led by athletic forward Tolu Smith (13.8 points, 7.9 rebounds per game). Smith will face a challenge inside going up against Florida forward Colin Castleton, who leads the SEC in blocked shots at 3.2 per game.

Jans wants Mississippi State to remain physical on defense while waiting for the offense to break out.

"It starts with me and my staff to set the mood -- the vibe -- to stay hungry, stay focused, continue to work and believe; just to believe in what we're doing and believe in one another," Jans said. "That'll be a big focus for us heading into the Florida game."

Florida (10-8, 3-3) had its three-game win streak snapped with a 54-52 loss at Texas AM on Wednesday night. The Gators couldn't overcome a horrendous offensive first half, going just 2 of 26 from the field to fall behind 23-12 at halftime.

"We just weren't aggressive enough early on in the game," Florida coach Todd Golden said. "We've just got to find a way to be more effective early in the game, putting the ball in the basket."

Like Mississippi State, the Gators have leaned on their defense so far in league play. Florida has given up an average of 62.7 points in six league games and enters the game with the Bulldogs ranked 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com.

"We've been doing a really good job defending," Florida guard Will Richard said. "I feel like once we get our offense going along with that, it's going to be really good."

--Field Level Media

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