Gators hounded by Dogs
Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
ATHENS, Ga. — Florida coach Billy Donovan said he wanted the Gators to strive to become a better team without sophomore forward Will Yeguete.
If Saturday's game was any indication, the Gators have work to do just to return to the level that they were playing at before Yeguete's season-ending broken foot injury. No. 12 Florida put together a lifeless effort on both ends of the floor in a 76-62 loss to rival Georgia before 10,265 at Stegeman Coliseum.
Not even chants of “Let's Go Gators” from the blue-and-orange clad Florida fans in attendance could get the Gators going. Florida made a season-low five 3-pointers and shot a season-low 21.7 percent (5-23) from beyond the arc.
The defense wasn't much better. The Gators allowed offensively challenged Georgia to shoot 52.9 percent from the floor, giving up several wide open dunks and layups inside. Georgia outscored Florida in the paint 38-26.
“We got hung up on screens and did not do a great job defensively at all,” Donovan said.
The sloppy effort led to Donovan questioning the maturity of his team.
“There is an immaturity in understanding the other team's guys are on scholarship. The other team's guys are preparing hard,” Donovan said.
Donovan said he felt the Gators should have been better prepared, mentally, given what was at stake. The Gators (22-7, 10-4 SEC) had their three-game winning streak snapped and failed at a chance to secure a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. The SEC office later confirmed that Florida has earned a bye in the SEC Tournament. In all remaining tiebreaker scenarios, Florida would be seeded no worse than fourth.
It won't get any easier going forward. Florida closes the season with two tough games — at Vanderbilt and at home against No. 1 Kentucky.
“I am really concerned if we are ever going to play with any passion again,” Donovan said. “Because if you can't get excited to play on the road against a bordering state, getting a chance to go 11-3 in the league and you come out and play like that? … As a coach sometimes I feel like I'm grabbing these guys by the back of their shirts and I'm pulling them up a hill all of the time.”
From even before the opening tip, the game had an ominous start for the Gators. Florida sophomore forward Casey Prather was assessed a technical for dunking in the layup line during pregame warmups. Georgia senior guard Gerald Robinson hit a pair of free throws to put the Bulldogs up 2-0.
From there, Florida missed its first eight 3-point attempts, falling behind 21-11 on a Robinson jumper. The Gators cut Georgia's lead to 28-25 with 2:07 left on a pair of free throws from freshman guard Bradley Beal. But the Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run which included a pair of open 3-pointers in transition from Georgia freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and senior Dustin Ware. An inside dunk by Florida sophomore center Patric Young cut Georgia's lead to 36-27 at halftime.
“They played a lot harder than we did, especially on the defensive end,” Beal said. “It wasn't great at all. We gave up a lot of 3s. They were shooting a high percentage at halftime and then in the second half they got even hotter and started going on runs.”
Beal led Florida with 19 points and 12 rebounds, posting his fifth career double-double. Erving Walker had 14 points but just one assist and Kenny Boynton finished with 11 points and four turnovers. The Gators finished the game with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (8 to 11).
“We have to do the other things when you aren't shooting well because you are not going to shoot the ball well every night,” Walker said. “We have to learn to play through certain things.”
Georgia extended its lead to as many as 16 points in the second half before Florida made a late run. The Gators cut Georgia's lead to 67-62 on a Boynton 3-pointer with 1:53 left. Florida followed it up with a strong defensive possession, but with one second on the shot clock, Beal inexplicably crashed into Ware going for a loose ball at midcourt. Beal was called for the loose-ball foul, and Ware made both free throws with 1:17 left to extend Georgia's lead back to 69-62.
“We didn't deserve to win the game,” Donovan said. “We're down by five and we run over a guy with one second left on the shot clock with the ball going back to halfcourt. Just mentally, I didn't think that we were in the game at all from start to finish.”
Said Beal: “I kind of hate that call because it's a loose ball. I'm a lot bigger than him so of course he's gonna retaliate harder than I did. I mean, he fell and as soon as I made contact with him. It was a foul but at the same time I was just trying to make a hustle play.”
Caldwell-Pope led five Georgia scorers in double-figures with 18 points. Robinson added 15 points and seven assists and Ware scored 11 points for the Bulldogs off the bench. Georgia (13-15, 4-10 SEC) came into the game shooting a league-low 37.5 percent in conference games.
“It's just a matter of shots going in,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We didn't change anything about our game. We didn't do anything differently.”
Both Beal and Walker failed to use the absence of the 6-foot-7 Yeguete as an excuse. Florida out-rebounded Georgia 36-30 and had 15 offensive rebounds. Young finished with 11 rebounds, his most since grabbing 12 rebounds in the second game of UF's season against Ohio State.
“We've won when Will wasn't here,” Beal said. “Will was out two, three games earlier in the year with concussions and when he sat out last game at Auburn (we won) so we really can't use that as an excuse. We just have to move past that. We have guys that can step up and play ball.”
Said Walker: “I don't think that had anything to do with tonight. Will certainly would have helped but him not being here was not the reason we lost … it was our defense that cost us tonight.”
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