Not only did Georgia's basketball team snap a three-game losing streak, it finally held onto a lead for long enough to beat a conference foe. And in doing so, the Bulldogs were able to upset No. 23 Florida 72-60 at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs led Florida 37-32 at the break, but saw Gators silence the home crowd by opening the second half on a 10-5 run.
But Georgia did well on many of its second-half possessions and got a 20-point performance from senior Yante Maten. His second half was highlighted by a Maten 3-pointer and a block that brought life to a fairly large Stegeman Coliseum crowd.
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Four who mattered
Maten: After being held to only eight points in the first half, Georgia’s leading scorer became the go-to in late game situations – as per usual – and finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Georgia forward Nicolas Claxton: All of his efforts may not appear in the stat sheet, but Claxton brought the energy once more for the Bulldogs. He entered as Georgia’s first substitution and had three offensive rebounds in a span of 3:42 – all of which led to second-chance points. The freshman re-entered in the second half and continued to lead the surge of momentum with two blocks, a 3-pointer and additional rebounds to finish with eight.
Georgia guard Turtle Jackson: The Bulldogs’ point guard has regained his sense of confidence by posting a double-digit performance in consecutive conference games. To follow up a 15-point performance against Arkansas, Jackson recorded 16 points against Florida – his highest total since a 17-point performance against San Diego State on Nov. 24.
Florida guard Chris Chiozza: From the opening possession, Chiozza was the Gators offensive spark as he recorded a steal and a layup. He didn’t stop there as he finished the contest with 15 points – highlighted by three 3-pointers and six assists.
Maten converted on a jump shot while falling backward. The and-one opportunity that followed gave Georgia a 55-51 lead and the final swing of momentum needed.
3-point barrage: Both teams showed no fear of shooting from the perimeter as a combined 50 3-point shots were taken. Georgia converted on eight, while Florida was good on nine attempts. The Bulldogs’ spark came in the first half when they hit three consecutive 3-pointers to start a 15-2 run. Two of the three deep shots came from Tyree Crump on consecutive possessions – the sophomore made six straight in pregame warm-ups.
Balanced attack: While Maten led the way for Georgia, other players served as important contributors as well. The Bulldogs finished with three double-digit scorers, with Juwan Parker scoring 12 points to join Maten (20) and Jackson (16) in this category. Entering the game, the Bulldogs didn't have one player averaging double digits for the season.
Strong defensive finish: Florida shot 37 percent in its loss to Georgia, but the Gators were having a significant amount of success from the field until the Bulldogs tightened up their defense late in the game. The Gators had only two field goals in the final 10:49 of regulation and head coach Mike White was visibly disappointed with the stretch of play as he indicated a greater desire to win from Georgia.
Advantage in second-chance points: Georgia found a way to get second opportunities on a number of possessions in the victory after a 15-12 advantage in offensive rebounds. The Bulldogs topped the Gators at a 16-to-12 margin in second-chance points due to the efforts of Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds (six rebounds in nine minutes) and it consequently led to bolstered offensive production.
Rebounding advantage once more: In the past three games, Georgia held a rebounding advantage on its opponent but managed to lose the game. Prior to the recent three-game losing streak, the Bulldogs were 10-0 when it had a rebounding advantage and the winning ways were revived Tuesday night. Georgia recorded a 44-35 advantage in the category and it led to the double-digit win.
Skid ended with big win: In addition to ending a lengthy period of struggle, the Bulldogs recorded another quality win. Florida marks the second team that Georgia has beaten in the AP Top 25 this season and the fourth win against a top-50 RPI team. The opportunities to close the season will be plentiful as Georgia has four games against ranked teams remaining.
They said it
Georgia head coach Mark Fox on confidence: “You hope you just have one of those burps and get out of it. I thought their confidence had been shaken, but I hope they realized tonight that they are a good team. I didn’t give them a chance to feel sorry for themselves. There’s going to be people that jump off the ship after we lose a couple of games, but these kids didn’t. I thought they might’ve tried, but they’ve got great character and stayed with it. There’s more success and adversity to come, but you have to stay the course.”
Claxton on bringing energy off the bench: “That’s just how I play and it gets myself and my team going. I have a lot of heart and a lot of fight and I give everything I have.”
Florida head coach Mike White on late-game offensive struggles: “I thought we had some pretty good looks, but it seemed like there was a lid on the basket at times. We were probably a little too eager at times, too, because Georgia is so sound defensively and things are hard to come by.”
Georgia goes back on the road to face Mississippi State at 6 p.m. Saturday.