STARKVILLE, Miss. — — Tolu Smith scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Florida on Saturday.
The 6-foot-10 Smith was 11-of-13 shooting and posted his fifth double-double this season. His 6-11 frontline partner Abdul Abu added 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting with nine rebounds. Mississippi State (9-5, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) dominated the paint, outscoring the Gators 52-28.
The Bulldogs led 70-60 with just under a minute to go. Florida’s Tre Mann scored seven points from there before missing an awkward and contested 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Iverson Molinar added 13 points — he has scored in double figures in all 11 games he has played — and D.J. Stewart Jr. had 11 for the Bulldogs, who made only 1 of 8 3-pointers and 13 of 24 free throws. But their inside scoring and 47-26 rebounding advantage made the difference.
Tyree Appleby made all 11 of his free throws and scored 20 points for the Gators with Colin Castleton adding 16 points and six blocks after blocking seven in his previous game. He is the first SEC player with six-plus blocked shots in consecutive games since LSU’s Jordan Mickey in the 2014-2015 season.
Mann scored 14 points for the Gators (6-4, 3-3), who were missing starter Scottie Lewis (11 ppg) for the second straight game because of safety protocols.
The Bulldogs have won three straight over the Gators for the first time since the 1982-83 season.