Whatever momentum the Georgia Bulldogs gained in their win against a ranked Missouri squad on Tuesday did not help very much in Saturday’s matchup in Gainesville against their rival, Florida Gators. Florida beat Georgia 70-63 in what ended up being one of the worst shooting performances of the year for the Bulldogs.
Georgia shot 38% from the field and only made four of its 20 3-point attempts (20%), which was actually improved from the 8% mark set at the end of the first half. The Bulldogs went through a stretch in the first half where they only made one of 15 shots. They also almost went 10 minutes without a field goal, which led to an 18-2 Florida scoring run. The Gators built up a 30-12 lead, and it seemed like the game was teetering on the brink of a blowout.
However, Georgia stayed in the game with its effort and energy on the defensive side of the ball. Saturday’s contest was vastly different from the types of high-scoring games that the Bulldogs are used to playing in. The first time these two teams matched up, Florida won 92-84. 63 points is tied for the second-lowest amount of points Georgia has scored this year and 38% from the field is the second-lowest percentage they have shot this year.
“Our defense was giving us a chance,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean. “We hit pockets and pockets of not making threes, but we still have to find a way to be in the game so we have a chance to win it at the end.”
Georgia was able to cut into the lead because of Sahvir Wheeler’s excellence, though. Wheeler scored a career-high 27 points and only had one turnover. Wheeler was assertive with his drives and was able to finish some tough layups as well. There’s no doubt that when he is at his best, he makes Georgia a significantly better team. Unfortunately for Wheeler, he did not get the help from his teammates that he needed.
Besides Toumani Camara and Tye Fagan, there was not another player for Georgia that scored from the field in the first half. Justin Kier, Jaxon Etter and K.D. Johnson joined in in the second half, but only combined for six field goals between the three of them. Camara ran into foul trouble again and picked up his fourth foul with over 13 minutes still remaining, which limited his impact in the game.
Crean talked about the importance of winning the rebounding battle before the game, but Georgia was outrebounded by the Gators 40-31. Colin Castleon’s size presented problems for Georgia’s defense, he scored 14 points and made all five of his shots from the field. Tre Mann also added 13 points for Florida.
If there is one surprising category for Georgia to be happy about it would be looking at the turnover numbers. Georgia finished with only 12 turnovers, which is much better than the 17 a game the team averages. Only two of those turnovers came in the second half and that was a big part of why Georgia was able to get the game within six points. Georgia also forced Florida to turn the ball over 20 times, but only scored 17 points off of those 20 turnovers.
Next Georgia will head into the final week of the regular season, falling to 13-9 (6-9). The Bulldogs will first face LSU on Tuesday at home – a team that they lost to in overtime early in conference play. Then, Georgia will have a chance to avenge its loss against South Carolina, which was arguably the ugliest performance of the year for the Bulldogs the first time the two teams played. The Bulldogs will need to focus on improving their impressive 11-3 home record in order to better their position for the SEC Tournament.