With their backs against the wall after its poorest half of the season, Florida Gators basketball found a way to get shots to fall and outlast the Georgia Bulldogs on Tuesday night in Athens, Georgia.
Florida (17-9, 8-5 SEC) improved to 8-2 against Georgia (14-10, 7-6) since 2011 as the Gators shot 50 percent from the field in the second half and boosted their resume for the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s close win with six quick-hitters.
It was over when: Georgia guard Kenny Gaines missed a three-pointer with nine seconds remaining. Gaines, who made four triples on the night including one with 28 seconds to play that cut Florida’s short lead to a single point, pulled up from way beyond the arc but was unable to knock the basket down. The Gators made 5-of-6 free throws over the final 33 seconds after missing the front end of consecutive one-and-ones as it hoped to extend a five-point lead it held with 2:09 to play.
One-man gang: Florida would have been lost Tuesday without freshman G KeVaughn Allen, who produced one-third of his team’s scoring output with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. While the Gators struggled to make threes, Allen hit 4-of-9 attempts and played a team-high 34 minutes in the contest. He posted nine of those points over the final 10:55 of the contest while his teammates contributed just 15.
Disappearing act: Redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, the straw that has stirred the drink for UF all season, was ineffective most of the game. He went just 1-for-10 from the field (0-for-6 from three) and missed two important free throws in the contest despite finishing 5-of-7 from the line with seven boards. He is now 4-for-18 from the floor and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc over the last two games.
As bad as it gets … for one half: Florida could not have put together a worse first half coming out of their atrocious showing against Alabama on Saturday. Though the Gators hit five of their first six attempts inside the arc, they stopped playing near the basket and went an absurd 1-for-17 from downtown in the opening 20 minutes. UF scored one point the final 8:12 of the first half, went on a 6:20 scoreless drought and missed its final 11 shots of the period as UGA took a six-point advantage into the break despite only scoring 25 points.
Head coach Mike White obviously got into his team’s collective head at the break as Florida’s offensive gameplan was completely different coming out of the locker rooms. The Gators shot 50 percent from two-point range in each half, but while they attempted just 12 shots (making six) in the first, they tried 18 (making nine) in the second. Couple that with UF’s improved three-point shooting (4-for-8 over the final 20 minutes) and suddenly a team that struggled to score was capable of pulling out a victory.
Everything else: The Gators fell to 4-of-28 from beyond the arc over three halves after going 1-for-17 from three in the opening 20 minutes … redshirt sophomore center John Egbunuposted a career-high five blocks and played within himself to score 10 points and grab seven rebounds … junior point guard Kasey Hill was inefficient shooting but dished five assists and made a habit of getting to the rack; unfortunately, he went 1-for-6 from the line and missed the front end of two one-and-one opportunities … sophomore PG Chris Chiozza did not score or share much, but he drastically improved the flow of the offense and came up big with two free throws in the final minute … Georgia scored 23 second-chance points on the evening and outrebounded Florida 45-40 on the back of 15 offensive boards … UF won despite only leading for 13:52 of the 40-minute contest
Up next: Florida will remain on the road when it travels to face South Carolina on Saturday at noon on SEC Network. The Gators are now 3-6 in true road games this season but have won seven straight against the Gamecocks and are 27-6 against USC since 1999.