- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - In the starting lineup for the first time all season, Chris Chiozza lifted Florida with an impressive flurry of shooting and passing early in the second half.

“I was hoping that was going to spark us, but we were already in the hole,” Chiozza said. “All that did was get us even.”

The Gators kept it close against top-ranked Michigan State, but Florida eventually fell 58-52 on Saturday night.

Michigan State shot 37 percent from the field against the athletic Gators, who trailed by four when the Spartans lost the ball with about 30 seconds to play. Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith took a 3-pointer from the left wing, but he missed and Michigan State was able to pad its margin with free throws.

Finney-Smith and Kasey Hill each scored 13 points for the Gators (6-3).

Both teams shot around 30 percent in the first half, with Florida missing all eight of its 3-point tries. The Spartans were up 27-25 at halftime and methodically built an eight-point lead early in the second.

That’s when Chiozza went to work, wiping out that deficit almost by himself. He made a 3-pointer, a slick pass to Devin Robinson for a dunk and then another 3 to tie it at 38.

“It was a really hard-fought game in a great environment,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We obviously came up a little short, but we took a step in the right direction and played as hard as we have played.”

With the score tied at 42, there was a wild scramble on the floor for a loose ball. The Gators came up with it, and Finney-Smith’s 3-pointer put Florida ahead.

Marvin Clark and Javon Bess scored back-to-back baskets for the Spartans. Then Florida had a trip down the court that lasted about 70 seconds, with the Gators coming up with four offensive rebounds. Robinson turned the last one into a putback for a 47-46 lead.

But the Spartans responded with a 10-3 run, and a tip-in by Clark made it 56-50 with 2:17 remaining. Hill made a layup and drew a foul with 55 seconds left, but he missed the free throw and the Gators never got it back to a one-possession game.

Michigan State (11-0) moved within one victory of matching the program’s best start. The 2000-01 Spartans won their first 12 games.

Denzel Valentine scored 17 points for Michigan State and Bryn Forbes added 12.

“We weren’t really making shots and some guys were struggling offensively, but we could defend and play our hearts out and that’s what we did,” Forbes said. “We can’t have our best night every night.”


Chiozza was in the starting lineup for Florida for the first time this season, and so was guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez. Chiozza scored 11 points but Francis-Ramirez had only one.


The crowd roared when Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and some of his players came out onto the court during a first-half stoppage. The Spartans won the Big Ten and will play Alabama in a national semifinal.

Michigan State also honored its national champion basketball team from 2000 at halftime. The Spartans beat Florida in the title game that year.


Florida: The Gators haven’t beaten a team in the AP top five since defeating No. 2 Michigan State on Nov. 27, 2009.

Michigan State: The Spartans didn’t put up huge scoring numbers, but they did finish with 18 assists on 21 field goals. Tum Tum Nairn led the Spartans with five assists.


Florida: Hosts Oklahoma State next Saturday night.

Michigan State: Plays at Northeastern next Saturday.

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