ATHENS — Florida’s defense put the chomp on Georgia down the stretch, sending the Bulldogs spiraling down with their third straight loss.
The Gators (10-7, 2-3 SEC) silenced the crowd at Stegeman Coliseum on Saturday with the 62-52 victory over Georgia (9-8, 1-4).
The Bulldogs held a 48-43 lead with 9 minutes, 38 seconds left before going without a field goal over the next 9:16, Jordan Harris’ layup ending a 15-2 run.
UGA’s lack of a true point guard caught up with the program again, Georgia missing six straight shots from the floor and turning the ball over six times during Florida’s decisive splurge.
Harris led the Bulldogs with 10 points, and Claxton had a game-high 12 rebounds and nine points.
Rayshaun Hammonds, UGA’s leading scorer entering the game, was held scoreless for the second time in SEC play, 0-for-4 shooting with four turnovers.
The Gators entered the day as the SEC’s top scoring defense (61.8 points per game) and held true to form, forcing 20 Bulldogs’ turnovers.
Georgia coach Tom Crean had returned from Michigan to coach the game after his mother, Marjorie, passed away in the Great Lakes State on Thursday.
The sellout crowd did what its could to encourage the coach and his team.
The arena was rocking when Georgia hit its first six shots of the second half, including four from 3, to tie the game at 40-40 at the 15-minute mark.
Moments later, the Bulldogs took their first lead of the game at 42-40 with 13:40 left on E’Torrion Wilridge’s put back.
After Florida answered with a 3-pointer, Georgia went on a 6-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 48-43 on Harris’ reverse layup.
The Bulldogs went ice cold from there on.
Florida held a 33-23 lead at the half, Georgia struggling to run sets against the Gators’ pressing, trapping defense.
Florida jumped to an 8-0 lead before the Bulldogs finally scored at he 15:09 mark when Harris split a pair of free throws.
Florida was threatening to make it a role when the Bulldogs put together a 7-0 run capped by Tyree Crump’s 3-pointer at the 10:25 mark that cut the deficit to 16-12.
The Gators got back on a roll, however, controlling the tempo and leading by as many as 13 before taking a 10-point edge into halftime.
Georgia returns to action at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at LSU before returning home for a sold-out home game against Texas at 2 p.m. next Saturday.