No. 23 Florida grabs lead in 2nd half, can’t hold on against Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — The repeated misses were bad for No. 23 Florida.
The failure to rebound them made the offensive struggles even more painful.
Yante Maten scored 20 points and Georgia recovered after blowing a halftime lead to beat the Gators 72-60 on Tuesday night.
Florida’s 36.5 percent shooting from the field was its second-worst in a Southeastern Conference game this season.
“It seemed like there was a lid on the basket for us at times,” said Florida coach Mike White.
The lid was Georgia’s defense, which leads the SEC by holding opponents to 38.7 percent shooting.
Florida (15-7, 6-3 SEC) began the night in second place in the SEC, one game behind No. 11 Auburn.
Georgia (13-8, 4-5) had lost three straight and five of six, and players felt the pressure of fading NCAA Tournament hopes.
“Today everybody came with the spirit because we wanted it so bad to turn the season around,” said Tyree Crump, who sank two 3-pointers in the first half.
Crump and freshman Nicolas Claxton, who had a game-high eight rebounds and three blocks, led Georgia’s bench.
“We knew our backs were against the wall,” Claxton said. “… We needed that win to boost our confidence and get back on the right track.”
Georgia outrebounded the Gators 44-35, including 22-17 in the first half.
“I’m just disappointed,” White said. “We’ve shown more fight than that. To be dominated on the glass like that to start the game, when that was the biggest point of emphasis by far coming in … they were destroying us on the glass. We didn’t come close to matching their physicality.”
The Gators recovered after trailing 37-32 at halftime to lead 48-43. Florida opened the second half with a 12-2 run that included two 3-pointers by Jalen Hudson and a jam by KeVaughn Allen.
Georgia has a recent trend of blown leads, but this time the Bulldogs recovered. Maten’s three-point play gave Georgia a 55-51 lead, and his 3-pointer stretched the advantage to 60-53.
Cold-shooting Florida could not answer. Georgia led 66-53 before Keith Stone sank a 3-pointer, ending a Florida scoring drought of about four minutes.
Chris Chiozza led the Gators with 15 points, including 11 in the first half. Egor Koulechov had 13 points. The two combined to make only 10 of 23 shots.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league,” Koulechov said. “They held our field goal percentage down. Sometimes we’ve got to make plays. That’s what it comes down to.”
Florida led 26-22 following an open layup by Gorjok Gak, before the Bulldogs took the lead with 11 straight points. Crump, Juwan Parker and William “Turtle” Jackson hit 3-pointers to start the run. Maten added a jam for a 33-26 lead.
Jackson had 16 points. Parker had 12.
Florida: Hudson made three of six 3-pointers for nine points but missed all eight of his shots inside the 3-point line. … The Gators lost despite excellent ball-handling, committing only seven turnovers. … It was Florida’s first loss to Georgia in three seasons under White. … Florida fell to 3-2 in SEC road games. It has lost two straight in the conference, including a home loss to South Carolina.
Georgia: The Bulldogs have made only two NCAA Tournament appearances, with no wins, in coach Mark Fox’s first eight seasons and will need a strong showing in February to enter the NCAA picture. … The Bulldogs had improved ball movement and grabbed first-half momentum with backup point guards Jordan Harris and Crump on the court. Crump scored six points on two 3s in his first four minutes.
THEY SAID IT
With less than a minute remaining, Georgia fans started chanting “Just like football,” a reference to the Bulldogs’ 42-7 football win over the Gators in Jacksonville, Florida.
Georgia protected the lead by making 12 free throws without a miss in the final 1:35. Overall, the Bulldogs made 18 of 22.
Florida: Hosts Alabama on Saturday.
Georgia: At Mississippi State on Saturday.