After relinquishing big leads against both Arkansas and LSU (and nearly blowing a double-digit lead in its win over Vandy on Wednesday), Coach Mark Fox preached the importance of “closing” to his team heading into today’s matchup with conference rival Florida.
With 5:46 left in the game, UGA held a 61-51 advantage, but Florida still seemed too close given the inconsistency that Georgia had shown towards the end of its first three SEC games.
This afternoon, though, the Dawgs kept their composure and actually extended the advantage to close out the win, knocking off the Gators 73-61 in Athens. This loss was the first for Florida in 24 SEC games, and it was definitely overdue for Georgia, who had dropped 18 of the previous 21 to the Gators.
Georgia started the game on fire, hitting its first 7 shots, allowing UGA to open up a 15-0 advantage.
Florida’s full-court pressure eventually began to wear down the Dawgs in the first half. After not turning the ball over for the first 11 minutes of the game, UGA committed 8 turnovers in the final 9 minutes going into intermission, enabling the Gators to close Georgia’s advantage to just 36-31. The Gators’ defense not only created turnovers, it also really limited the amount of time Mark Fox’s team had each possession to run its half-court sets, frustrating UGA offensively.
The Dawgs outscored the Gators 10-6 after the break, giving them a 46-37 lead with 15:16 left. From this point on, though, Georgia never looked back, building a double-digit lead that they managed to keep for the next fifteen minutes.
UGA had four players finish in double-figures, with Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton leading the way with 16 apiece. Kenny Gaines, who came out briefly midway through the second half with an undisclosed injury, once again played fantastic for Coach Fox, connecting on 4 of his 5 three-point attempts. Gaines has been lights out from beyond the arc since SEC play started, hitting 12 of his 21 attempts.
Surprisingly, Georgia – a team that couldn’t buy a three-point basket early in the season – entered today’s game with the best three-point shooting percentage in conference play at 43%. In today’s game against the Gators, the Dawgs made 53% of their shots from the perimeter, proving that they are a dangerous team from the outside.
Georgia’s biggest flaw this afternoon was its ball security – UGA committed 16 turnovers. Luckily, Coach Fox’s defense was able to turn the Gators over 19 times, a season-high for Billy Donovan’s team.
This win was huge for the Bulldogs, who even up their SEC record after starting the season 0-2 in conference games. Georgia will look to go above .500 in the SEC when they take on Ole Miss in Athens on Tuesday.