After winning four games in a row to close out December, including victories over Clemson and Georgia Tech, Georgia (7-4, 0-1) appeared to have finally met its match on Saturday in Gainesville against the Florida Gators.
Actually, UGA looked overmatched.
Florida’s defense overwhelmed the Dawgs. Georgia had difficulty getting into its offense on a number of possessions, struggling to handle the Gators’ pressure.
The result: UGA hit less than 36% of its shots from the floor, including going just 2 of 12 from beyond the arc. This offensive ineptness ultimately led to a 77-63 Florida win in both of these team’s first SEC game of the season.
Also, Florida hit 9 three-pointers, and the Gators had five players finish in double-figures, with KeVaughn Allen leading the way with 18 points. Florida took a lot more uncontested shots than Georgia, which aided them in shooting a higher percentage on Saturday.
This contest seemed as though it was going to get out of hand early after Devin Robinson hit a three that gave his Gators a 24-11 advantage with a little over 9 minutes left in the half. The Dawgs recovered, though, trimming the Florida lead to 38-31 going into the intermission.
Coming out of the break, Yante Maten scored 6 of his team’s first 8 points, including a jumper with 16:58 left in the game that cut the Gator advantage to just 43-39. It didn’t remain close for long, however, as Florida went on an 11-5 run that saw the score balloon to 54-44 with a little more than 12 minutes remaining.
The Dawgs were unable to close that gap over the final 10 minutes – actually, it increased – and Georgia suffered a double-digit loss at the hands of its rival.
Maten finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds, and it seems likely that he will end up on an All-SEC team by year’s end.
Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier were the only other Bulldogs to end up in double-figures, scoring 13 and 12, respectively.
Charles Mann ended up with 9 points, but he shot only 1 of 7 from the field and he failed to dish out a single assist. Additionally, Mann committed a team high 3 turnovers, and he now has 3 more turnovers than assists on the season, which is troubling considering he is a senior guard.
The Dawgs will be more successful this season if Mark Fox can convince Mann that his job on this team is to be a role player. Mann is shooting under 31% on the season, and he continues to force things offensively – and not in a good way.
UGA’s best offensive options are Maten, Gaines and Frazier, so Mann and the rest of the Bulldogs should feel obliged to get these three players as many decent looks at the basket as possible, night in, night out.
At the end of the day, though, conference road wins are tough to come by in college basketball, so UGA fans should steer clear of the panic button. Georgia hosts Missouri in Athens on Wednesday, and then the Dawgs have a winnable road game next Saturday in Oxford.
By this time next week, Georgia could have a winning SEC record.