Georgia basketball comeback bid falls short in 77-67 loss to Florida
ATHENS — Georgia basketball battled back but could not overcome its 12-point second half deficit to Florida.
The Gators (15-15, 8-9 SEC) held off a late Bulldog (16-14, 6-11) push to sweep the season series by a 77-67 count at an energetic Stegeman Coliseum.
UGA, which trailed 51-39 with 14:35 remaining in the game, mounted a pair of 5-0 scoring runs to pull within a possession at the 9:17 mark.
The Bulldogs never took the lead, though, and coach Mike White fell one game short of tying a school record of 14 home wins in his first season in Athens.
“Ultimately, we just could not quite get over that hump,” said White, who coached Florida for seven seasons before coming to Georgia. “You can’t pinpoint it, whether it was 3-pointers or layups or free throws, it was all of it.”
The Gators outscored UGA 23-16 from there to secure the win before a home crowd donning complimentary throwback Georgia basketball shorts.
White did get strong performances from guards Kario Oquendo and Justin Hill, who played with strep throat. The two took advantage of a Florida lineup without star center Colin Castleton, who led his team in points, rebounds and blocks before breaking his hand.
Oquendo led the team with 20 points. Hill, who has averaged over 13 points in his last eight games, added 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Georgia fell behind late in a streaky first half, entering the locker room down 43-33. Florida outscored UGA 17-7 in the first half’s final five minutes, shooting 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
The teams traded short scoring runs through the half’s first 15 minutes and entered the last five tied at 26. That was when the Gators mounted an 11-0 run to take control.
Hill led the Bulldogs with 9 points at halftime, sinking several hard-nosed interior shots.
Georgia created plenty of scoring opportunities but could not capitalize on enough of them. The Bulldogs shot 21 of 63 from the floor and sunk just 4 of their 22 3-point attempts.
UGA was also without its second-highest percentage 3-point shooter in Mardrez McBride. The Augusta product was sidelined with an illness.
White’s best percentage 3-point shooter, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, fouled out late in the second half.
“Certain games, you feel like your guys deserve a certain level of success,” White said. “That was what we talked about earlier, where you just don’t get everything in life sometimes that you deserve, and it’s part of it.
“That thing would not go in for us.”
The Bulldogs are on the road for the regular season finale, visiting South Carolina at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
White’s team will either play the first round of the SEC Tournament on March 8 or March 9, depending on if they avoid a bottom four seed.
UGA needs a win and Mississippi State losses to South Carolina tonight and Vanderbilt on Saturday in order to avoid a bottom four seeding.
“Let’s try to put our best game together,” White said. “That might be what it takes to get another one.”
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