December 8, 2018 / 7:49 PM / in 6 days

No. 10 Michigan State slides past Florida

Michigan State had four players score in double figures to help the 10th-ranked Spartans hold off Florida for a 63-59 victory on Saturday at Gainesville, Fla.

Despite turning the ball over 15 times and giving up 16 offensive rebounds, the Spartans held off the Gators. Junior Kyle Ahrens scored the final seven points for Michigan State (8-2), including a dunk with 9.4 seconds to play to put the game away.

Xavier Tillman scored 14 points to lead Michigan State while Nick Ward and Joshua Langford scored 13 each and Cassius Winston added 10.

Andrew Nembhard and KeVaughn Allen scored 13 each for Florida (5-4).

Turnovers were once again an issue for Michigan State in the first half as the Spartans gave the ball up 11 times, leading to 11 points for the Gators, who also grabbed nine offensive rebounds to score eight second-chance points.

However, the Spartans shot the ball well, and after Florida opened the game by scoring the first five points, Michigan State settled and took control by going to Ward in the post as the junior big man scored nine in the opening 20 minutes. The Spartans were unable to extend their lead beyond 10, though, as 10 turnovers came in the last 12 minutes.

The Gators were unable to take advantage, making just three of their first 19 shots. It started to come together late in the half as Florida made five of its final nine shots, twice cutting the deficit to three points. But Michigan State pushed the advantage back to 10 on Tillman’s layup with 1:53 to play before two free throws from Florida’s Kevarrius Hayes trimmed it to 35-27 at the break.

After Michigan State extended the lead to 12 to open the second half, Florida used a 12-4 run to pull within 43-39 with 13:35 to play. The Spartans pushed back but were unable to shake the Gators, who got it down to 52-50 on a three-point play from Hayes with 4:57 to play. But Michigan State got a jumper from Langford and a jump-hook from Tillman as the shot clock expired to go up 56-50 with 3:46 left in the game.

Florida continued to storm back and got within 61-59 after four straight points from Nembhard, the last on a drive for a layup with 1:27 to play. But after getting a defensive stop, Ahrens picked up a loose ball and dunked with 9.4 seconds to play and put the game away.

—Field Level Media

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