GAINESVILLE -- Florida leading scorer Kenny Boynton couldn’t score, and Mississippi guard and Southeastern Conference leading scorer Marshall Henderson again couldn’t be stopped.
But that didn’t prevent the No. 4 Gators (18-2, 8-0 SEC) from rolling to their 10th straight double-digit win with a 78-64 victory over the No. 16 Rebels (17-4, 6-2). Despite a quick start and game-high 25 points from Henderson, Florida was able to maintain a comfortable advantage throughout and held Ole Miss to just 38 percent shooting from the field and 16 points under its season average of 80.3.
“It was one of those games where it never really got going up and down the floor like I wanted it to,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “When it did, we went on some runs.”
Ole Miss kept it close to open the game and trailed by just one at the first media timeout with 15:42 to play in the first half. Six minutes later, Florida had extended that lead to 16. The Gators had runs of 7-0, 10-0 and 19-4 and shot 38 percent from three despite Boynton and point guard Scottie Wilbekin combining to go 2 of 14 from beyond the arc.
“We scored 78, which is a good number for us, but I also think that we probably left some out there,” Donovan said. “If those guys make a few more threes, we probably have 90.”
Wilbekin was tasked with defending Henderson, a player who has developed a reputation for his on-court behavior, aggressive style of play and knack to shoot the ball from anywhere. Although Henderson led all scorers, teammates raved about the job Wilbekin did defending the conference’s best scorer.
“He’s our heart and soul,” said Boynton, the former Plantation American Heritage star who finished with a career-high 10 assists. “I think he did a great job on him. Henderson hit some tough shots.”
Said Donovan: “Scottie did a great job. [Henderson] got nothing easy. I mean, he’s shooting double pumpers. He can have all those he wants.”
Before the game, Wilbekin unsurprisingly shied away from questions regarding Henderson and his personality on the court. After the game, his comments might come as shocking to some college basketball fans.
“It was tough guarding him,” Wilbekin said. “I have respect for him that I didn’t have before the game. He’s a good guy. Even with all his antics, he seems like a good guy.”
Although Florida gave up 60 points for the first time in more than a month, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said he had never seen anything like the Gators’ effort on defense.
“This is my seventh Florida team to play. One of those was the national championship team that had NBA lottery picks on it,” he said. “I don’t even remember a Florida team guarding with that intensity.”
Henderson also had praise for Florida.
“I think they will contend for the national championship,” he said. “We have seen how they have been blowing people out. They execute perfectly.”
That was evident Saturday with Boynton and Wilbekin cold from outside. Others stepped up to shoulder the load with center Patric Young picked up his first career double-double in a conference game and fifth this season with 13 points and 12 rebounds and , guard Mike Rosario added 14 on 6-of-10 shooting.