GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dennis Felton spent halftime pleading with his team to hold on to the ball. Turnovers, he said, were the difference in the game.
If his advice was taken, it wasn’t implemented. Georgia turned the ball over on three of its first five possessions in the second half, and Florida exploited the miscues to open the floodgates offensively, sending the Bulldogs to their seventh straight defeat, 83-57.
“Turnovers were the difference in the first half, and then we came out in the second half and as determined as we wanted to be, we started the second half with some turnovers,” Felton said. “In this building, that becomes momentous. The crowd gets going, and that basket gets really, really big for Florida.”
Florida guard Nick Calathes finished with a triple-double, racking up a game-high 20 points along with 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Calathes was 4-of-6 from 3, leading a deluge of long-distance shooting for the Gators that turned a close game in the first half into a blowout midway though the second. For the game, Florida shot 45.8 percent from beyond the arc, while Georgia’s defense remained helpless to stop it.
“They had a great shooting night, but the problem was our defensive intensity,” senior guard Corey Butler said. “We weren’t making those guys drive. They’re a lot slower than our guys, so you run to them, close out and make them drive, you stop them from shooting those 3-pointers.”
In the second half as the Gators’ pressure created a bevy of Georgia miscues and their sharpshooters made the Bulldogs pay on the other end of the court. Florida outscored Georgia 20-6 off turnovers in the game, giving up the ball only seven times compared to the Bulldogs’ 17.
Calathes had 14 of his 20 points in the second half, and his 10 assists were only two shy of Georgia’s team tally. It was the second triple-double of Calathes’ career.
“That’s tremendous on his part, and we had to do a better job on him,” Butler said. “We did a great job on him early, but it’s just a matter of working hard on defense and keeping a guy from going off like that.”
Leading up to the game, Felton had said he thought his team was close to putting a full 40 minutes together. For the most part, that’s what it did — with Georgia’s first-half intensity against Florida nearly matching the ability it showed in the second half against Mississippi State. Putting 40 minutes
together in the same game, however, wasn’t in the cards.
“I think we lost an edge on our competitiveness once they started to pull away, and that really hurt,” Butler said. “I thought we were building. We had a good first half, and I hoped we’d get a little push going in the second half, but we weren’t able to do that.”
Georgia closed to within one point with 6:32 to play in the first half and had a chance to take the lead, but the Gators closed out the half with a 20-9 run to take a 12-point lead into the locker room.
Florida followed by exploiting Georgia’s mistakes to begin the second half with a 26-9 run, and the Bulldogs never recovered.
Butler and freshman Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs with 10 points, but Thompkins was shut out in the second half, missing all five of his shots.
Thompkins wasn’t the only member of Georgia’s youth movement to struggle, and senior Terrance Woodbury said the young Bulldogs need to learn consistency if the team is going to put an end to its current slump.
“It’s very frustrating,” Woodbury said. “I don’t know. I guess our team just has these lapses, and everybody’s trying to figure out why. I mean, 30 points is 30 points. That’s it.”