Bulldogs get schooled at home by Florida

Credit: SEC

Florida opened the second half with a 20-7 run to build a 16-point lead and eventual 92-84 win over the Bulldogs in Athens.

Credit: SEC

ATHENS — Georgia got schooled Saturday afternoon on how to play as a team. The Florida Gators were more than happy to provide the lesson.

The Gators out-hustled and out-executed the Bulldogs on the way to a 92-84 victory at Stegeman Coliseum. Don’t let the final score fool you. Georgia wasn’t within three possessions until the final minute and its hack-and-jack strategy pared the margin. Florida was not in jeopardy of losing for the final 10 minutes of play and really all but the first two minutes of the second half.

The half-hearted effort in the fundamental areas of the game left coach Tom Crean bamboozled.

“I didn’t see it coming, but we did,” Crean said when asked if his team was out-hustled. “We’d been aggressive in practices. We’d even backed them off so they were short and concise. But the aggressiveness we had against Kentucky and Ole Miss and the last couple of days wasn’t there at all.”

Georgia trailed by only three points at halftime, but had only four deflections at that point, a third of its normal defensive production. Then Florida opened the second half with a 20-7 run to build a 16-point lead.

The Gators stayed ahead by double digits until the game’s final 1:12. The Bulldogs fouled to stop the clock and extend the game, but it all was too little, too late.

Georgia got in the predicament it was in because of fundamental breakdowns and a lack of urgency in its play. The Bulldogs were annihilated on the backboards 41-27, with Florida recording 16 offensive rebounds and scoring 22 second-chance points. Meanwhile, Georgia missed 11 free throws and let the Gators shoot 56.9 percent from the floor.

“Our performance at the free-throw line and the lack of defensive tenacity, especially at home, was frustrating,” said Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who finished with 10 points and 10 assists, but played only 10 minutes in the second half. “We can’t be out-rebounded like we were today and win games.”

It was Florida’s third win in a row over Georgia and snapped the Bulldogs’ modest two-game winning streak. Georgia (9-5, 2-5) will have a lot of fundamentals to work on before Wednesday’s trip to South Carolina (7 p.m., ESPNU).

Georgia guard K.D. Johnson (0) prepares to shoot a free throw during a game against Florida Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA Sports)
Georgia guard K.D. Johnson (0) prepares to shoot a free throw during a game against Florida Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. (Tony Walsh/UGA Sports)

Credit: UGA Sports

Credit: UGA Sports

The Gators (8-4, 5-3) were still playing without three of their top players, including SEC preseason player of the year, Keyontae Johnson. Sophomore guard Tre Mann proved an unstoppable force, scoring 24 points, including eight from the free-throw line in the game’s final minutes. Four others finished in double figures, and Florida was 7-of-18 from 3-point range.

Andrew Garcia led the Bulldogs with 17 points, and K.D. Johnson scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. Georgia shot 54.2 percent as a team, but forwards Garcia, Toumani Camara and P.J. Horne had only 10 rebounds among them.

One of the bright spots for Georgia was Jonathan Ned, who made both of his 3-point attempts and grabbed two rebounds in 10 minutes of play.

“We can’t be out-rebounded like we were today and win,” Crean said.

All nine of the lead changes in the game occurred in the first half. The Bulldogs last led 30-29 on Camara’s free throws with 6:13 to go in the first half.

Georgia had a chance to carry the lead into halftime with possession of the ball down one with 30 seconds to go. But Wheeler missed a layup, then Justin Kier committed a turnover. Florida’s Omar Payne tipped in a missed shot at the buzzer to put the Gators up 42-39 at the half.

Florida opened the second half with a 16-3 run fueled by four Georgia turnovers and the Bulldogs’ 1-of-5 shooting. That put the Gators ahead by 16.

“To me, those few minutes were the difference,” Florida coach Mike White said. “If we had not gotten that lead, I am not sure we would have been successful late because we really struggled to guard them. They shot, what percent? Twenty-two assists, 13 turnovers. I mean they were terrific offensively. Thank goodness we were good offensively as well.”

Florida’s lead was never again threatened. The Gators were up 17 with 6:27 to play when Georgia started to intentionally foul. The closest the Bulldogs got was the final margin of eight points with four seconds to play.

In the end, if Georgia simply had made its free throws, it would have been a competitive game.

“We’ve just got to step up at the line and make free throws; this is college basketball,” Crean said. “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for that.”

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