GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)Keyontae Johnson scored 15 points, Kerry Blackshear Jr. added 13 and Florida bounced back from its worst performance of the season with a 71-55 victory over undermanned Ole Miss on Tuesday night.
Coming off a 16-point loss at Missouri, the Gators (11-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) were considerably more efficient on both ends against the Rebels (9-7, 0-3). They shot 54% from the field and forced 18 turnovers.
Johnson did a little of everything, finishing with six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Andrew Nembhard sliced through Ole Miss’ defense repeatedly with NBA moves, getting to the rim with ease and finishing with 10 points and six assists.
Blackshear added nine rebounds for Florida, ending up one board shy of his eighth double-double of the season.
Ole Miss played without leading scorer Breein Tyree (back bruise), a senior who is averaging 17.8 points a game. Starting center Khadim Sy also didn’t make the trip.
KJ Buffen paced Ole Miss with 20 points. Blake Hinson added 16 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
The Gators were up 40-28 at the half and scored the first seven points coming out of the locker room to really pull away. They led by as many as 23 in the second half.
Florida opened and closed the first half with huge runs. The Gators scored 14 of the game’s first 18 points, building a 10-point lead and looking like they would run the Rebels off the court.
Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis called two timeouts in the first 4-plus minutes of the game, trying everything he could to slow down the Gators. It eventually – albeit briefly – worked.
Ole Miss scored 10 straight points to get back in the game, with Hinson doing most of the heavy lifting. Hinson, a sophomore who grew up about 100 miles southeast of Gainesville in Deltona, made two 3-pointers and a driving layup to help close the gap. His jumper midway through the first half gave the Rebels their first and only lead.
Florida went back in front for good on Johnson’s 3-pointer from the corner. That was part of seven consecutive made baskets for the Gators, who put together a 16-3 run to seize control.
The night ended with Florida celebrating a 100th victory for fifth-year coach Mike White.
Ole Miss: The Rebels are 0-3 in SEC play for the first time since 2011. They finished 7-9 that season under former coach Andy Kennedy. These Rebels might not be so fortunate, especially with an upcoming stretch that includes two games against LSU, one against Auburn and road tests against Tennessee and Georgia.
Florida: The Gators finally looked like outsiders thought they would before the season. They’ve been consistently inconsistent through 16 games, but clearly have the talent and depth to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Ole Miss: Hosts LSU on Saturday. It will be the first of two meetings between the teams this season. The Tigers have won five of six in the series.
Florida: Hosts No. 4 Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers have won two straight in the series after dropping 21 of 22.
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