Nursing a six-point lead with 17 seconds left to play, the Gators men’s basketball team gave up a three-point shot to Georgia forward Yante Maten. Florida still led 59-56.
Then with five seconds remaining, Maten hit another three-pointer, forcing overtime Wednesday night at the O’Connell Center.
More than three quarters of the way through a season filled with highs and lows, the Florida…
The Gators would not lead again.
Maten finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Bulldogs secured a season sweep of the Gators and overwhelmed them down the stretch, winning 72-69.
“That was about as tough a loss as I’ve ever experienced,” Florida coach Mike White said after the game.
Things started off slow for the Gators (17-9, 8-5 SEC), who missed their first three shots before graduate guard Egor Koulechov knocked down two three-pointers in less than one minute, putting the Gators up 6-4 early on.
Neither team could create much separation in the first half. Florida didn’t shoot well overall, hitting just 32.3 percent of its field goal attempts, but it made 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) shots from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs (14-11, 5-8 SEC) shot 34.8 percent from the field in the opening frame but missed five of their six three-point attempts.
Guards KeVaughn Allen (8 points) and Mike Okauru (9 points) accounted for half of Florida’s 34 points at the break. Allen came off the bench for the third straight game and finished with 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
Okauru finished with 14 points in 14 minutes, the second-most points of the season for the freshman.
Both teams traded baskets to start the second half, but Florida opened up a 10-point lead with an 8-2 run fueled by Allen, Stone and Okauru with about 14 minutes left the game.
A jumper by Allen with 10:03 remaining put the Gators up 50-39, but Georgia chipped away at Florida’s lead from that point forward. The Bulldogs made four of their six three-pointers during that stretch, including the pair from Maten with 17 seconds and 5 seconds remaining. The first shot pulled Georgia’s deficit to within three, and the second tied the game at 59, forcing an extra period.
“It was deflating,” White said. “We shouldn’t have even been in overtime. We had some miscommunication.”
UGA pulled ahead early in overtime, jumping out to a 7-1 run after a layup from Maten, a dunk by junior forward Derek Ogbeide and a three-pointer by sophomore guard Tyree Crump. Allen scored the Gators’ next five points — a three-pointer to pull within 66-63, and then two free throws after a jumper by Maten to keep the Gators in striking distance — down 68-65 — with 2:07 remaining.
But Florida was unable to catch up to Georgia, which stretched the lead to 70-65 after a pair of Crump free throws. Playing with the lead, the Bulldogs allowed layups from Okauru and guard Chris Chiozza in the final 13 seconds.
Following the pair of easy UF baskets, UGA seniors Pape Diatta and Juwan Parker both hit free throws to ice the game for Georgia.
Next up for the Gators is a trip to Nashville, where the team will play Vanderbilt on Saturday. Florida beat the Commodores 81-74 in its SEC opener on Dec. 30.
White said he wants his players to snap back into focus during the three-day break before facing Vanderbilt.
“We’ve got to flush this (loss to Georgia) mentally,” he said.