ATHENS, GA — With a sellout crowd loud and rowdy to back them, the Georgia Bulldogs were hoping to do something no Georgia team has ever done in nine previous tries Wednesday night. The plan was to make history by knocking off a number one team for the first time in school history but the Florida Gators were having none of it.
Using the same formula they’ve used to cruise through the Southeastern Conference schedule, the Gators shot a high percentage from the field and shut down the Bulldogs from the three-point line as they won their 15th straight game, 71-61, before a crowd of 10,523 at Stegeman Coliseum. Florida hit 52.1 percent of its shots (25-48) and 55 percent from the three-point line while holding Georgia to a miserable 18.2 percent (4-22 shooting) on three-balls. For the entire game, Georgia was 20-59 (33.9 percent).
The Gators extended their best ever start in school history, improving to 22-2 overall and 9-0 in SEC play. Florida’s 15th straight win ties for the third best winning streak in UF history. The win set the stage for a Saturday night showdown in Lexington when the Gators face a Kentucky team that is 7-2 in conference play. The Wildcats are the only team in SEC play within two games of the Gators, who are threatening to make a runaway of the SEC regular season race to the championship.
Florida got it done on both ends of the floor Wednesday night. Efficient on offense, the Gators consistently moved the ball for easy, open shots. Georgia got off to a hot start and held a five-point lead, 18-13, at the 10:55 mark in the first half on a dunk by Mike Mercer that sent the crowd into a frenzy but the Gators answered with a 9-0 run. Florida took the lead for good (20-18) on a three-pointer by Lee Humphrey with 6:46 remaining in the half. The Gators extended their lead to 36-30 at the intermission.
The Gators got off to a 9-2 run to start the second half and that gave Florida the separation it needed to go into cruise control the rest of the way. The Gators led by as many as 17 points and though Georgia was able to close within nine (68-59) with 40 seconds left on a Mercer layup, the game was never in doubt.
Florida was led by Corey Brewer with 18 points. Brewer became the 38th Gator in history to record 1000 points in a career. He’s at 1,003 with seven regular season games remaining plus the post season.
Al Horford had 17 points and 10 rebounds to record his tenth double-double of the season, matching the total he had for all of last season when helped the Gators to a 33-6 record and the NCAA championship.
Humphrey continued his tear through the SEC from behind the three-point line with 11 points that included 3-3 from long distance. Humphrey is now 33-48 on three-pointers in conference play (68.7 percent).
Joakim Noah was the fourth Gator in double figures with 10 points.
GAME NOTES: Georgia actually outrebounded the Gators, 33-31. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Gators by five in the first meeting. Georgia is the only team to outrebound Florida in conference play this season … Chris Richard turned in another solid performance off the Florida bench. He only scored three points but he pulled down seven rebounds to go with an assist, a steal and a blocked shot … Georgia is the tenth straight team the Gators have held to sub-50 percent shooting from the three-point line. In their last five games, the Gators have smothered three-point shooters, holding them to 23.5 percent on 23-98 shooting … Only Kansas and Stetson have shot better than 50 percent from the field against Florida in 24 games.