Nothing but net


Published: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 12, 2003 at 12:24 a.m.
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Florida guard Anthony Roberson releases what proved to be the game-winning shot against Georgia on Saturday at the O'Connell Center. Roberson was Florida's leading scorer with 23 points against the Bulldogs. His buzzer-beater was the first for Florida since Mike Miller's running jumper against Butler in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

(ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun)
For Florida to erase a 10-point deficit and rally to win one of the most exciting games in school history, it took a freshman and a senior.
The senior ignited the comeback. The freshman hit the game-winning shot.
Anthony Roberson hit a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer as No. 11 Florida stunned No. 20 Georgia 66-63 in front of a sold-out crowd of 12,422 Saturday at the O'Connell Center.
With 12 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, the Gators (13-2, 2-0 SEC) looked dead to rights. Jarvis Hayes hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs (9-4, 1-1) a 45-35 lead. While there was plenty of time left in the game, there was no reason to think Florida could get back in the game.
Florida's three seniors had shot a combined 2 for 18 from the floor. Matt Bonner had missed 7 of his first 8 shots, the last of which was a limp 3-pointer that almost missed the rim completely.
Donovan called a timeout. His team was getting destroyed.
Then, somehow something began to click.
"It was feeling right, but nothing was going my way," Bonner said. "Everything I put up before that was missing. It just kind of snowballed and I was starting to let it get to my head. My teammates just rallied around me and pumped me up."
But it was something Florida coach Billy Donovan said to Bonner during the timeout that really got him going.
"He told me don't be tentative," Bonner said. "He told me I'm one of the best players in the country, and to go do my thing."
Bonner then hit a short hook shot and then hit a 3-pointer on the following possession. Georgia forward Jonas Hayes hit a shot, but Bonner followed it up with a 4-footer and was fouled. Naturally, he hit the free throw.
Georgia's lead was down to four.
Then the freshman went to work.
On the next possession, Roberson nailed a 3 to pull within a point. With Roberson's next shot, the Gators had the lead. During an 18-2 run that changed the direction of the game, every point was scored by Bonner and Roberson.
"Young Roberson really shot the ball well down the stretch," Georgia coach Jim Harrick said. "We both made runs, but they made a pretty big one in the second half."
After David Lee hit a dunk with 4:40 left, Florida opened up a 9-point lead. But Georgia stayed in the game as Jarvis Hayes hit four 3-pointers to tie it at 63. The Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead, but Jarvis Hayes was called for a foul with 19.1 seconds left that gave the ball back to Florida.
With the final possession, the Gators got the ball to Roberson, who has been one of their best clutch shooters this season. With Jarvis Hayes right in his face, Roberson nailed the shot.
"There was no way that shot wasn't going in," Lee said.
Even Harrick had to give Roberson props for hitting the game-winner.
"He made a great shot," Harrick said. "A great kid made a great shot."
Roberson was Florida's leading scorer with 23 points. Lee had his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Bonner finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Jarvis Hayes led Georgia with 25.
Roberson's buzzer-beater was the first for Florida since Mike Miller's running jumper against Butler in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament. The last time a Florida player hit a game-winner at the O'Connell Center was when Stacey Poole hit an 18-footer against Vanderbilt on Jan. 9, 1993. It was the 16th time Florida has won on a buzzer-beater since 1972.
"We had a few teams hit shots like that against us last year," Donovan said. "We were very fortunate to win this game."
Donovan was thrilled to get the win, but said the final play didn't quite shake out the way he had planned.
"I can tell you this, I did not design the play to look like that," Donovan said. "I would be the first to admit it. Roberson just made a great, great, great shot."
A great shot ended a great game.
Dylan B. Tomlinson covers UF men's basketball for The Sun. You can reach him by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at tomlind@gvillesun.com

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