Coach Mark Fox had his Georgia Bulldogs (18-9; 7-6) come out in a zone defense last night against the Florida Gators, and by golly, they stuck with it. For some reason or another, it was apparent that Coach Fox did not feel like his Bulldogs could match-up with the Gators in a man set.
Running a zone defense in college basketball is a bit of a gamble, especially against a good shooting team like Florida (45.0% FG and 35.0% 3PT). Fox’s strategy worked in the first half, as the Gators struggled to make shots – finishing at 37% from the floor before the break (with only two three-pointers).
After intermission, however, Florida settled in and got a lot more comfortable on offense. The key stretch of this game came with about 7:30 left and the Gators up 52-51. Florida’s Kenny Boynton proceeded to bang down three-straight shots from beyond the arc, and following an Alex Tyus lay-up the Gators were all of a sudden leading 63-53 with only 5:10 remaining. Georgia was never able to fully recover from this 11-2 run, and Chandler Parsons put the nail in the coffin when he snagged an offensive board and stuck it back in to put his team up 65-59 with two minutes left – the final score ended up being 71-62 in favor of the Gators.
Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 18 points, scoring 14 of them in the game’s second half. He and Chandler Parsons combined for five three-pointers after the break, and Florida finished the game right at their SEC average of 35% from the perimeter.
Georgia had been off since last Saturday’s win at Tennessee, so fatigue should not have been a problem on Thursday. It was painful to watch Florida swing the ball around the perimeter and bury open three after open three in the second half. I kept waiting for Coach Fox to get out of the zone and put his team back into man-to-man (especially after Boynton had hit two in a row), but that never happened.
Other than that one killer stretch, the Dawgs played a pretty good game in a rowdy O’Connell Center, with Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins leading the way with 20 and 16, respectively. Georgia only turned the ball over 13 times (with 17 assists), and they out-rebounded the Gators 32-30. The problem, however, was that Florida capitalized on nearly every Georgia turnover, resulting in 23 points (off turnovers).
It was a pretty tall order to ask this team to follow-up their road win at Tennessee with another road win against the SEC’s best team. After dropping both games to the Gators this season, the UGA basketball team has now beaten Florida just twice in the past 16 games – making this rivalry about as lopsided as it is on the football field between these two schools.
The Dawgs are now embattled in a three-way tie with Kentucky and Tennessee for third place in the SEC East.
Georgia has a very quick turnaround, with the South Carolina Gamecocks coming into Athens for a prime time Saturday night tip-off. The Dawgs don’t have time to sit around and lick their wounds from the loss in Gainesville, as the game against the Cocks is critical to Georgia finishing the season with a winning conference record.