Mark Fox had to be experiencing déjà vu inside of Stegeman Coliseum this evening. In the loss to South Carolina last Saturday, Georgia’s offense went over 8 minutes without a field goal; this evening, the Dawgs pulled a similar disappearing act, going more than 6 minutes without a bucket from the floor. By the time Yante Maten finished an open dunk inside to end the drought, UGA (13-11, 4-7) trailed 63-52 with only 3:50 remaining, and the Dawgs would go on to lose 72-60.
But it wasn’t just poor shooting that did the Dawgs in on Tuesday evening. Believe it or not, this contest was actually close at times. With 16:00 left in the game, Florida held a slim 41-38 advantage. Mark Fox’s team got careless, though, and turned the ball over on the next three possessions, which enabled the Gators to push the lead to 48-40 during a critical stretch of this game.
On the night, Georgia gave the ball away 16 times, and depending on how some other SEC games shake out this week, UGA could be leading the conference in giveaways by the weekend. To make matters worse, Florida was opportunistic this evening, converting those Georgia TOs into 18 points. Yante Maten carried the torch with 5 turnovers as he had trouble protecting the ball inside against multiple Florida defenders. Jordan Harris gave the ball over 3 times himself, and he continues to get it stripped easily from his hands when he attempts to drive the ball at the defense.
Georgia struggled tonight offensively against a Florida team that is second in conference play in team defense, holding opponents to just 66 points a night. The Gators are bigger and more athletic than UGA, and every time Yante Maten touched the ball inside the Florida zone collapsed on him. Maten finished with 19 points and J.J. Frazier chipped in 18, but for the most part the Dawgs were stymied when they had the ball. Georgia’s lack of shooters always becomes painfully apparent when they are playing strong defensive units that can overplay Maten and Frazier. The Dawgs hit only 33% of their shots as a team, but everyone not named Maten or Frazier shot a collective 26% on the night.
Florida overwhelmed Georgia quickly at the start of this one as they jumped out to a 30-14 lead. The Dawgs, though, responded with a 15-0 run of their own to cut the Gators’ advantage down to 30-29. Florida went without a field goal for nearly 8 minutes of play during the latter portion of the first half, but Kasey Hill broke the spell by hitting a jumper with 1:45 left, which gave the Gators a 35-33 lead that they would take into the intermission.
Other than this stretch of play in the first half, UGA for much of the night had trouble handling Florida on defense. The Gators’ backup point guard, Chris Chiozza, was a matchup nightmare for the Dawgs as he knifed into the middle of the lane whenever he wanted. Chiozza led all Florida scorers with 15 points to go along with 4 steals, and he was one of four Gators to finish the game in double-figures.
These two teams played a tightly contested game and went to overtime a month ago in Gainesville, but it was pretty clear tonight that one team is trending upward and in the right direction, and the other team is Georgia.
Now the really bad news. This loss marks the first time in Fox’s career that he has dropped 5 consecutive SEC games. Furthermore, UGA has yet to earn a conference win against a team with a winning record in league play. Georgia is 0-7 against what ESPN deems the RPI Top 50, and the Dawgs have now lost 22 straight games over the past five seasons to teams in ESPN’s RPI Top 25.