Roberson's 3's lead Gators over Bulldogs

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 5:03 p.m.

The fallaway jumper seemed to hang in the air forever. Then, it swished - all net.

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Florida's Anthony Roberson (1) shoots the game-winning three point over Georgia's Jarvis Hayes (24) as time expires in the fourth quarter. Florida defeated Georgia 66-63.

AP Photo/Phil Sandlin

With that, Florida freshman Anthony Roberson answered the question Georgia's Jarvis Hayes had been asking him all day with a flurry of sweet jump shots of his own.

Can you top this?

Roberson said "Yes" with his 25-foot buzzer-beater Saturday that lifted the 11th-ranked Gators to a wild 66-63 victory over No. 20 Georgia.

"Most people look at it like I was going shot for shot," Roberson said. "I wasn't going shot for shot. I was going for the win."

Once Roberson got it, he saw his teammates clamber off the bench and come running toward him. The slight, 6-foot-1 freshman from Saginaw, Mich., kept backpedaling, backpedaling until there was nowhere left to go. Then, he got caught in the celebratory mob.

"I saw it hit the net, I saw everyone running at me,' said Roberson, who made seven 3-pointers and led the Gators with 23 points. "I thought they were going to hurt me."

Indeed, their ninth straight victory was cause for a major celebration for the Gators (13-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), who matched their second-best start in school history.

And it was another bitter pill for the Bulldogs (9-4, 1-1), who saw their own eight-game winning streak snapped. The last defeat came Nov. 30 - a 72-69 defeat to Minnesota on - what else? - a buzzer-beating shot by the Gophers.

"This is worse than that," Georgia coach Jim Harrick said.

Wasted in this loss was a shooting spree by Hayes, the standout junior who said his No. 1 goal in the offseason was to improve his outside touch.

He went 6-for-8 from 3-point range, including an amazing stretch of three straight 3-pointers in the span of 90 seconds that pulled the Bulldogs from nine points down to 58-58 with 2:12 left.

After Hayes' third 3-pointer, Roberson answered with a 3 of his own - the fourth of five he made over the final 9 minutes - for a 3-point lead.

Georgia pulled within one on two free throws, then Hayes made his sixth and final 3-pointer for a 63-61 lead with 57 seconds left.

On the next possession, David Lee tied it with a dunk. With Georgia working for the go-ahead basket, Hayes was called for pushing off, a foul that sent Harrick into hysterics - he had to be restrained by his assistants.

Asked about the play, Hayes said, "No, I didn't foul him."

Harrick thought it was ticky-tack stuff.

"In that situation, you let the players decide the game, not the officials," Harrick said. "That's probably a no-call."

The call gave Florida the ball with 19.1 seconds left. After a timeout, the Gators were looking to Matt Bonner to take the game-winning shot. But when the clock ran down to 6 seconds, Roberson was the only guy open.

He got the ball and was well covered by the 6-7 Hayes at the top of the key - but unstoppable nonetheless.

"Some of the shots he made were really incredible," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "That's what great players do."

Referee Ted Valentine checked the replay to make sure there was no time left when the ball fell through the bottom of the net. There wasn't, and Florida had its first buzzer-beating win at home since 1993.

"I've got 6 inches on him and he still got it off," Hayes said. "It was a great play. What is he? A freshman. Oh, my God."

Roberson heated up during a seven-minute stretch in which Florida went on a 23-4 run, turning a 10-point deficit into a 58-49 lead. Roberson made three 3-pointers and Bonner scored 12 points during the stretch.

Lee finished with 16 points and Bonner had 15.

Hayes' twin brother, Jonas, and Ezra Williams finished with 10 points each, although Williams didn't score in the second half. Georgia failed in its attempt to win nine straight for the first time since 1983, the only time it has made the Final Four.

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