The Georgia Bulldogs (13-15; 4-10) knocked off another ranked team on Saturday, besting the #12 Florida Gators in Athens 76-62 inside Stegeman Coliseum.
The Dawgs held a double-digit lead for much of the second half until the wheels appeared to be coming off for Coach Mark Fox’s team in the closing minutes of the game. Following a Kenny Boynton three-pointer, the Gators had cut the Georgia lead to only 67-62 with just 1:53 remaining.
On the Bulldogs‘ ensuing possession, Georgia held the ball for nearly 30 seconds before Gerald Robinson, Jr. made a move towards the basket. Robinson, however, lost the ball off on a deflected pass, which eventually ended up near the half court line. Fortunately for Georgia, Florida’s Bradley Beal fouled Dustin Ware as he was going for the ball with only a few ticks left on the shot clock. Ware calmly stepped up to the free throw line and buried both shots, putting his team up by three possessions at 69-62.
If Beal doesn’t foul Ware on that play, Georgia most surely turns the ball over on the expired shot clock, giving Florida the ball with a chance to cut the game down to one possession.
This moment was definitely a critical part in the game, but for the most part the afternoon belonged to UGA. The Gators never held a lead in this game, shooting a dismal 36.7% from the floor and scoring only 62 points (nearly 9 below their conference average).
The Dawgs played inspired defense for the full 40 minutes, holding Florida to just 5 three-pointers on 23 attempts.
Offensively, it seemed as if Georgia could do no wrong. The Bulldogs shot nearly 53% from the field, making big shot after big shot. It felt as though every time the Gators started to edge closer, Dustin Ware would hit a step-back three or Neme Djurisic would get a stick-back lay-up.
The Bulldogs saw five players reach double-figures today, with Kentavious-Caldwell Pope leading the charge with 18 points.
Gerald Robinson played one of his best games ever as a Bulldog (in my opinion), scoring 15 points and dishing out a game-high 7 assists. Robinson ignited the offense this afternoon, providing resilient leadership on the court against a highly-ranked SEC opponent.
On the block, Neme Djurisic and Donte Williams stepped up and scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Neme finished with a team-high 7 boards and Williams blocked 6 – yes 6 – Florida shots. The Georgia bigs also showed up on the defensive end as well, holding Patrick Young and Erik Murphy to just 10 combined points.
Last, but certainly not least, I have to throw a big-time bone to senior Dustin Ware, who scored 11 points to go along with 6 assists. Ware started the game on the bench due to his recent offensive woes, yet once the ball tipped off he transformed back into the solid contributor that he has been throughout his career as a Bulldog.
Ware canned a monster step-back three-pointer with 7:42 left in the game that ended a 7-0 Florida run, extending the Georgia lead back out to 61-49. He also forced a steal and made 5 of 6 free throw attempts in the games final 3 minutes, playing a critical role in helping his team close out the victory.
I also have to give a lot of credit to Coach Fox and the Georgia coaching staff. In the last 10 minutes of this contest the Bulldogs did an excellent job maximizing the shot clock, which in turn limited the number of Florida offensive possessions.
For me personally, the best part of the day came towards the end of the game when all the loud and boisterous Florida fans began an early mass exodus of Stegeman Coliseum before the final horn sounded.
This Georgia team continues to remain somewhat of an enigma with surprising wins over teams like Florida, Notre Dame and Mississippi State, and disappointing losses to Auburn and South Carolina.
The Dawgs conference record improves to 4-10 following the win over Florida, pitting them in a tie with the Auburn Tigers for 10th in the conference. Auburn has remaining games at Alabama and then against LSU – they could easily lose both – meaning that if Georgia could knock off South Carolina at home next weekend they would secure the 10-seed in the conference tournament. This would match the Dawgs up with either Arkansas, Missy State, Ole Miss or even LSU – all of which are winnable games for UGA.
I know that I promised after the Vanderbilt game not to mention the NIT Tournament again this season, but if Georgia could muster a couple of wins in the conference tournament – might they receive a selection?