Koulechov scores 23, Florida beats Mississippi State 71-54
Jalen Hudson had one thing left to do after Florida’s sixth consecutive victory.
“We got to wipe down everything with some Clorox and bleach,” Hudson said.
It might have helped more a few weeks ago.
Egor Koulechov scored 23 points, including Florida’s first 13 of the game, and the sick and short-handed Gators beat Mississippi State 71-54 on Wednesday night for their longest winning streak of the season.
Hudson added 12 points despite missing 10 of 13 shots, and Florida won its eighth straight against the Bulldogs (13-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference).
Chris Chiozza, who missed practice this week because of strep throat, finished with 10 points and seven assists off the bench. Keith Stone chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.
“Boy, it’s been a crazy year,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We’ve got to wash our hands more.”
The Gators (12-4, 4-0) opened up a 10-point lead early in the second half when Chiozza hit a 3-pointer and converted a four-point play on consecutive possessions. Koulechov piled on a few minutes later, hitting a 3-pointer in transition and adding a dunk off Chiozza’s steal.
In all, it was a 27-7 run that turned a close game into a lopsided affair.
Mississippi State coach Ben Howland called timeouts and made substitutions, but nothing stopped Florida’s spurt.
Maybe the most impressive aspect of Florida’s latest victory was that it came despite injury and illness. Koulechov continued to play through plantar fasciitis, and Chiozza and Hudson have been among those sick in recent weeks. Guard Deaundrae Ballard is the latest to miss a game because of illness.
“We’ve got to get healthy,” White said.
Quinndary Weatherspoon led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Abdul Ado added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Mississippi State’s Aric Holman, the team’s second-leading scorer, fouled out in 16 minutes of action. He left the floor with 13:19 remaining. It was the first time he’s been disqualified this season. He finished with seven points and four boards.
“He got three fouls in three minutes in the second half,” Howland said. “I put him back him when we were down nine trying to keep it reasonable and not let it slip away, and right away he picked up his fifth. We’ve got to learn from that.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs continued their errant ways from behind the arc. After making 9 of 44 (20 percent) 3-pointers in their first two conference games, they hit 5 of 16 in Gainesville. They made 10 or more 3s in three non-conference games, so they can do it. They just haven’t in SEC play.
“We’ve got to be able to knock down the open shots we get,” Howland said.
Florida: The Gators continued to play solid defense even with shots not falling. It’s been the key to the team’s turnaround after losing four of five games earlier in the season.
“We played our butts on defense,” Koulechov said.
Chiozza has 457 assists, moving him past Nick Calathes and into fifth on the program’s all-time list. Calathes notched 452 assists in two seasons before turning pro. The only guys ahead of Chiozza now: Erving Walker (547), Kasey Hill (530), Ronnie Montgomery (503) and Eddie Shannon (493).
Mississippi State guard Xavian Stapleton did not make the trip after turning himself into police Monday to satisfy an arrest warrant for allegedly disturbing the peace. The junior was released on a $500 bond. Stapleton is averaging 6.5 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Mississippi State: Hosts Auburn on Saturday.
Florida: Plays at Mississippi on Saturday, looking for the team’s eighth 5-0 start in SEC play. That’s White’s alma mater.