ATHENS, Ga. — With January winding down, the 2017-18 Florida men’s basketball season is at a crossroads.
The No. 23 Gators continued their recent trend of letdown losses after big wins with a numbing 72-60 loss at Georgia which displayed flaws, that, given the current state of the roster, aren’t going to be easy to fix.
Florida was outmuscled, out-hustled and out of sync in a dismal offensive display in the final 10 minutes. After a 3-pointer by Jalen Hudson put Florida ahead 51-48 with 10:49 left, the Gators went the next 9:42 without a basket during an 18-2 run by Georgia that put the game way. By the time redshirt sophomore Keith Stone hit a 3-pointer with 1:07 left to cut Georgia’s lead to 66-56, it was far too little, far too late.
“They played much better D in the second half,” Florida senior guard Egor Koulechov said. “We couldn’t stop them down the stretch. The big plays, the loose balls, the big buckets, they made them.
“It’s the same stuff. We let our offense affect our defense,”
The roller-coaster season for Florida continues. Last week, Florida followed up its first win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena since 2014 with a home loss to South Carolina. This week, Florida followed up a 21-point win over Baylor with its first loss to Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum since 2015.
“It’s on us,” Koulechov said. “It’s a decision that’s got to come from us players when enough is enough, kind of draw a line in the sand. It’s going to have to come down to that.”
During Georgia’s game-deciding 18-2 run, Florida missed 14 straight shots. The first five came on 3-point attempts as Florida settled for deep shots late in the shot clock rather than attack the basket. Florida got the foul line just six times, making five.
“The whole game I was on our guys to try to get to the foul line,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We can’t rely on making 20 threes. First of all, they were running us off the line. We’ve gotta drive through contact, we’ve got to get to the foul line.”
Senior point guard Chris Chiozza blamed himself for over dribbling on some possessions down the stretch.
“We got stagnant,” Chiozza said.
Chiozza led the Gators (15-7, 6-3 SEC) with 15 points and six assists, while Koulechov added 13 points. The Gators shot just 36.5 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from 3-point range (9-26) in their lowest scoring game since falling 65-59 to Loyola-Chicago on Dec. 6. Georgia entered the matchup leading the SEC in both scoring defense (66.1 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (38.7).
“Defensively, I thought they wore us down both halves,” White said.
Georgia took the lead for good, 52-51, on an inside basket by Derek Ogbeide with 10 minutes remaining. A three-point play by senior Georgia forward Yante Maten then put Georgia up 55-51 with 6:48 left to go.
Florida cut Georgia’s lead to 57-53 on a pair of free throws from Koulechov, but Maten came up big for the Bulldogs again, sinking an open 3-pointer to put Georgia up 60-53 with 4:54 to go.
Maten led Georgia (13-8, 4-5 SEC) with 20 points and seven rebounds, while point guard William Jackson II added 16 points.
The Gators made 4 of their first 7 3-point attempts and jumped to an early 24-18 lead. But Georgia was able to stay in the game with its ability to grab offensive rebounds and create second-chance opportunities. For the game, Georgia outrebounded Florida 44-35, scoring 11 second-chance points in the first half and 16 for the game.
“We didn’t come close to matching their physicality,” White said. “They let us know this game was very important to them. They beat us to loose balls, they were tougher, they were more physical, they played with more edge than we did.”
Spurred by 3-pointers from Tyree Crump, Juwan Parker and Jackson and an inside dunk from Maten, Georgia went on an 11-0 first half run to take a 33-26 lead. The Bulldogs led 37-29 late in the first half on a pair of Maten free throws, but Chiozza sank a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left in the first half to cut Georgia’s lead to 37-32 at halftime.
In the second half, White started with a smaller lineup, going with guards Chiozza, Koulechov, KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson with Kevarrius Hayes at center. The move sparked the Gators, who started the second half on a 12-2 to take a 44-39 lead on a dunk by Allen.
But momentum shifted again for Georgia when backup forward Nicolas Claxton came up with an offensive rebound off a Georgia miss. Claxton then kicked the ball out to Jackson, who hit an open 3-pointer to cut UF’s lead to 44-41.
With senior center John Egbunu not even making the trip and not yet recovered from a torn ACL, the Gators will need to make due with what they have collectively rebounding inside. On Tuesday night, the effort wasn’t enough to overcome UF’s lack of size inside.
“I’m just disappointed,” White said. “We’ve shown more fight than that. To be dominated on the glass like that to start the game when that’s the biggest point of emphasis by far and away coming into this one, I thought we gave them some confidence that they could shoot and go get it. And also gave their shooters confidence that if they miss it, there’s going to be a 50-50 chance we’re going to get the rebound anyway.”
|GEORGIA 72, No. 23 FLORIDA 60|
Stone 2-6 0-0 5, Hayes 2-4 1-1 5, Chiozza 6-13 0-0 15, Koulechov 4-10 4-5 13, Allen 4-11 0-0 9, Bassett 0-1 0-0 0, Gak 2-3 0-0 4, Hudson 3-14 0-0 9, Ballard 0-1 0-0 0, Okauru 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-63 5-6 60.
Ogbeide 2-4 0-1 4, Wilridge 0-1 0-0 0, Maten 7-14 5-5 20, Parker 4-10 2-2 12, Jackson 4-10 6-6 16, Claxton 2-4 0-2 5, Edwards 0-2 0-0 0, Hammonds 1-6 0-0 2, Harris 1-2 5-6 7, Crump 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 23-58 18-22 72.
Halftime_Georgia 37-32. 3-Point Goals_Florida 9-26 (Hudson 3-6, Chiozza 3-7, Koulechov 1-3, Stone 1-4, Allen 1-5, Ballard 0-1), Georgia 8-25 (Crump 2-4, Parker 2-5, Jackson 2-8, Claxton 1-1, Maten 1-3, Harris 0-1, Wilridge 0-1, Hammonds 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Florida 33 (Koulechov 7), Georgia 39 (Claxton 8). Assists_Florida 8 (Chiozza 6), Georgia 11 (Parker 3). Total Fouls_Florida 20, Georgia 14.