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Gators gun down Henderson, Rebels

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It was closer than the first seven games. At least it felt like it for much of the game, despite the Gators leading by double digits for the final 30 minutes and 20 seconds of the game.

Scottie Wilbekin harassed Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, making him earn every shot.

But at the end of the day, the scoreboard read No. 4 Florida 78, No. 16 Ole Miss 64. Marshall Henderson got his points for the Rebels (17-4, 6-2 SEC), but the Gators (18-2, 8-0 SEC) made him work for every one of them and shut down the rest of the Rebels in the win.

"It was tough guarding him. I was trying my best on defense, but he still got up shots," point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "He still scored more than 20. I've got respect for him that I didn't have for him before the game. He's a good guard. All the antics, he seems like a good guy."

Wilbekin made Henderson work for every one of his 25 points. Though the guard finished an impressive 8-15 shooting, nearly every look was contested.

Florida got Ole Miss out of its comfort zone offensively by forcing Henderson to fight through double-teams, help defense and relentless effort from both Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton.

The rest of the Rebels shot just 13-40 (32.5%) from the floor as the Gators cruised to another blowout league win.

Wilbekin slowed down Henderson enough to make it count, even though he was left alone against him on defense for much of the game.

"He's our heart and soul," Boynton said of Wilbekin. "I think despite Henderson's [25] points, I think he did a good job on him. Henderson hit some shots, but I think overall he did a great job on him."

Meanwhile, on the other end, Ole Miss had no answers for Florida's crisp ball movement. The Gators got open look after open look and burned the nets, finishing with 11 made three-pointers.

Boynton dropped a career-high 10 assists and nearly racked up his first double-double at Florida with nine points.

"I wasn't hitting from outside, but I tried to get my teammates involved on other plays," the senior said. "Murphy did a great job knocking down shots and Patric Young did a good job finishing at the rim."

Even with Boynton's monster night on offense, the Rebels were able to cut the lead down to 13 with just 7:12 remaining. Then Wilbekin found Erik Murphy to the right side of the floor and Murphy drained a three to blow it back open.

Junior center Patric Young was also instrumental in the win, battling with Ole Miss' physical big men inside and racking up his first career double-double in an SEC game. He finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while limiting Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner to just 6-20 shooting.

"It was definitely physical and tough down there," Murphy said. "Holloway and Buckner are big and strong, and the kid off the bench was a little football player, the kid (Terry) Brutus. It was tough down there, definitely was a good battle down there.

"The guys on their team looks like him, muscle-wise. Pat did a great job chasing balls down on the glass, and that was big for us."

Murphy chipped in a team-high 19 points in the win on 7-8 shooting, including 5-6 from three-point range.

"I was a little bit concerned going into the game, could we make shots?" coach Billy Donovan said. "We saw a lot of zone in the second half, and I thought we got good looks."

With the Ole Miss win in the books, Florida moved to eight wins in conference play and put a two-game cushion between itself and Ole Miss and Kentucky.

But Donovan's not going to let his team start thinking about the SEC race yet.

"All the league standings really don't mean anything," he said. "To me it means something when the year is over with. We still have a lot more basketball to be played. We haven't even crossed the halfway point right now."

Florida returns to action on Tuesday with a 7 p.m. road game at Arkansas that will be nationally televised on ESPN.

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