GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The toughest part of Mississippi Valley State's schedule is over. The Southwestern Athletic Conference will seem easy by comparison.
Cor-J Cox scored 16 points, Terrence Joyner added 14 and Mississippi Valley State ended one of the toughest non-conference slate's in the country with an 82-54 loss at No. 11 Florida on Monday night.
"All I ask my kids to do is fight and continue to get better because it's almost a no-win situation," MVSU coach Sean Woods said. "The No. 1 team in the country couldn't handle this schedule and go out unscathed. We know what we are in for and we just have to keep battling and stay together because our main focus is winning the conference championship."
MVSU will be at Wisconsin Friday for a 2 p.m.
The Delta Devils (1-9) played 10 games away from home, including eight against teams from power conferences.Florida made its first eight shots, opened up a 20-point lead midway through the first half and did anything it wanted. Erving Walker finished with 19 points and was one of five starters in double figures. Kenny Boynton (16), Bradley Beal (13), Patric Young (12) and Erik Murphy (11) also scored in double digits for the Gators (9-2), who extended their home winning streak to 11.
The game provided a bit of a break for Florida, which was coming off a big win over Texas A&M two nights earlier and is getting ready for in-state rival Florida State in three days.
Nonetheless, Donovan used last year's home loss to Jacksonville — a Monday game that came on a short turnaround — as motivation.
"We're in the same exact situation," Donovan said. "Is history going to repeat itself or are you guys going to change that? I said, 'The beauty of it is this game hasn't been played and you have control of how we come out and play.' And I give those guys credit. They got themselves ready to play and I thought we came out with really good energy to start the game."
Except in the second half.
Unhappy with how the Gators came out of the locker room in recent games, Donovan made them run sprints after they looked sluggish in layup lines.
It worked, and Donovan said he plans to continue "to do something different."
"That was embarrassing, though," Walker said. "The strength coach just said we were being lackadaisical and that we always start off halves bad so he wanted to try something new."
The Delta Devils are ready for something new, too. Coming off a nine-day break, they missed 11 of their first 15 shots, including all 10 from 3-point range. Joyner gave them some momentum with a layup, a jumper and a 3 — points that trimmed Florida's lead to 19 — but the Gators pulled away in the closing minutes of the first half.
"This is probably one of the most explosive team that we are going to play this year — even going against North Carolina," Woods said. "(The Gators) proved to me that they can make shots. ... I played for Coach Donovan at Kentucky, and (assistant coach) John (Pelphrey) and I were teammates, so I knew what I was getting into. I knew the style of play.
"I knew they were going to stretch us out. I knew everybody on this team could score and put the ball in the hole, and that's exactly what they did tonight."