GAINESVILLE -- John Egbunu shoots a team-low 40.9 percent from the charity stripe during SEC play, but Florida’s sophomore center walked calmly to line, let out a deep breath and drilled four clutch free throws inside the final minute to help UF complete a thrilling 81-78 comeback win over Mississippi State on Monday.
“I can’t explain it,” UF coach Mike White said, shaking his head.
“It’s a unique deal. … But I’m glad he made them.”
Egbunu finished with 16 points (8 of 12 from the free throw line) and seven rebounds, helping Florida erase an 11-point deficit midway through the second-half.
Despite shooting just 55 percent from the line on the year, the center is a perfect 8 for 8 inside the final minute in UF's last two home games against LSU and MSU.
"I just stepped to the line with confidence," Egbunu said.
"We shoot a lot of pressure free throws in practice."
The Gators (12-6, 4-2 SEC) survived a see-saw finish, needing a 24-5 run to turn a double-digit deficit into an eight-point advantage before barely holding on late.
Senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith led all players with 20 points and 13 rebounds -- his fourth double-double in his last five games. UF’s freshman guard KeVaughn Allen chipped in 19 and five, while sophomore swingman Devin Robinson finished with 11 points on just six shots.
The Gators overcame 15 turnovers, poor transition defense (they were outscored 35-7 on fast break/points off turnovers) and an unusually quiet night from point guard Chris Chiozza.
They were listless early, too, trailing MSU 42-37 at halftime after Fred Thomas’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Although the Bulldogs, now winless in the SEC, fought valiantly thanks to the efforts of guards I.J. Ready (20 points) and Craig Sword (17 points), the Gators -- a NCAA bubble team -- could ill-afford a home loss to a SEC bottom-feeder with the worst RPI in the conference.
Florida hosts Auburn on Saturday at 8 p.m.
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