Right opponent at right time for the Gators

Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 12:12 a.m.
The game could have been illustrated with one short piece of video long after it was decided. Georgia's Corey Gibbs got the ball in the lane, faked what seemed like a dozen times, then put up a shot that was sent flying in the other direction by Joakim Noah.
Or maybe it was in the first half when Georgia's Younes Idrissi managed to turn a tip-in into a goaltend of his own shot.
"We had some bizarre dumb plays," said Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton.
And believe me, for as long as I've been covering and watching SEC basketball there has never been a team with a smaller margin for error.
I think that was a nice way to say it because I wouldn't want to rip the effort that Georgia displayed Tuesday night in the O'Connell Center or make fun of the offensively challenged. Even when they scored a peach-basket throwback 15 points in the first half, the Bulldogs were trying.
It's just that, well, to say Florida has more talent than Georgia would be like saying Aretha Franklin has more talent than Ashlee Simpson.
Still, college basketball has a way of evening things out, even when one team is favored by 22 points. You don't show up mentally and it's a game down the stretch. Florida didn't want that. Florida didn't need that.
What the Gators needed coming off a loss to Tennessee last week was exactly what the Gators got Tuesday night - an easy victory over an inferior team.
But I come not to bury Georgia. That would be easy. This collection of freshmen and walk-ons looked like a high school team coming out for introductions and played like one at times during the 40 minutes.
Don't think the Gator players weren't aware of the rubble left behind by Jim Harrick's despotic rule. They knew that the buzz surrounding Georgia heading into this season was not about the postseason but about the possibility of an oh-for-season.
In fact, UF center Al Horford may have paid the 7-9 Bulldogs their highest compliment this year when he said after the game, "Georgia's an alright team."
If you saw it, you know better. But you also know that Florida's team may not have been at its best on the offensive end at times, but that the Gators did what they had to do.
Because this wasn't a must-win game.
It was a must-not-lose game.
There were three things working in Florida's favor Tuesday night.
1. The Bulldogs were coming off a stunning win over Vanderbilt.
2. Florida had been humbled by that home loss to Tennessee.
3. The team they were playing still wore "GEORGIA" across it's black jerseys.
"We don't like each other really," said Anthony Roberson, "no matter who they have on the team."
And so, the Gators played hard and got the job done. They played good defense against a bad offense and dominated the boards against a poor rebounding team.
As a result, they were never threatened. You never thought Georgia could win this game. Their leading scorer was injured and suspended, the rare college quinella. Their only hope was that Florida would not take them seriously and that was not a possibility.
Billy Donovan told his team before the game that it had already been through a lot, some good and some bad.
"You guys should have a clue by now," he said.
They understood, or at least they played like they did. Georgia was limited to 33 percent shooting and 21 rebounds. The Bulldogs had three points off turnovers and five off offensive rebounds, all of them in the last few minutes.
By then Florida was cruising. The only intrigue was whether or not Georgia could eclipse 40 points and whether or not Gibbs would fake one more time.
They kept coming, kept grinding, but Florida had too much talent and experience. As a result, Georgia never really had a chance.
But don't feel bad for the Bulldogs.
Feel bad for Vanderbilt.
You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.

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