Florida pulls away from Georgia

semerson@macon.comJanuary 23, 2013 

ATHENS – The first half ended in glorious fashion for Georgia, with its star player draining a 25-foot buzzer-beater to give it a lead over No. 8 Florida.

The second half, for many of the same fans, ended in clunky fashion: a Georgia player failing on a dunk attempt because he couldn’t reach the rim. By then, of course, the game was all but decided.

For the first 20 minutes Wednesday, Georgia had the Gators on upset alert. One of the SEC’s worst teams never trailed in the first half against the same team that, just two weeks before, it lost to by 33 points.

But when the second half began, Florida gained control, cruising to a 64-47 victory, on the strength of a 24-5 run to start the half.

“I would say a lot of frustration on our end,” said Georgia freshman forward Brandon Morris, who had eight points. “We really battled mentally that second half, from our defensive effort, from our players making plays all the down to the refs. We just let it throw us off, and that played a key factor in why we couldn’t get a step in the second half.”

Georgia (7-11, 1-4 SEC) has struggled this season, losing to a number of lower-profile teams at Stegeman Coliseum.

But the Bulldogs can now also claim they led at halftime against No. 1 Indiana (by one), No. 11 UCLA (by five) and No. 8 Florida (by three). All of those games ended with Georgia losses, but this one was over much more quickly than the previous two.

The main difference in each half? Three-pointers. In the first half, Georgia was 6-for-11 from beyond the arc, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s bomb as the buzzer sounded. Florida was 1-for-9.

In the second half Florida caught fire, going 7-for-11 from beyond the arc, including two quick 3s to grab its first lead of the game.

“We gave up two open 3s, and it just sank the whole momentum,” said Caldwell-Pope, who led Georgia with 16 points.

Florida took its first lead of the game early in the second half, draining a couple of 3s. Georgia, meantime, started the half with three turnovers. The Bulldogs scored just two points over the first six minutes and 35 seconds of the second half, seeing their three-point halftime lead quickly turn into an eight-point deficit.

By the 9:59 mark, it was a 14-point game. The game that was on major upset alert was verging on the expected runaway.

“I felt like we could win the game,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “I still felt we could match up and guard them, and (we) didn’t do it in the second half. But we thought we could win the game.”

Georgia now moves past a brutal opening stretch, which included two games against Florida and one against No. 17 Missouri. After visiting Texas A&M (12-6, 2-2) on Saturday, the Bulldogs have games against Auburn and South Carolina, two of the SEC’s worst teams.

“We’ve had some really good teams in this league to start out,” Fox said. “And the one thing that this team, even at the start of this year, we’ve kinda been fighting uphill the whole time, and never have been able to get a lot of confidence and momentum. But we’ve gotta keep fighting forward, no matter if you’re going up or down.”

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