It all started with some boos.
Freshman guard Ques Glover committed a backcourt violation with the Gators down by 20 to the Bulldogs early in the second half. The crowd at the O’Dome was obviously not happy, and the boo birds came to roost. Georgia scored on the ensuing possession to put UGA up 52-30.
But from there, the Gators tore through Georgia’s defense for 49 points in 16 minutes to complete a 22-point comeback -- tying a program record -- and escape with an 81-75 win on Wednesday.
Florida (14-8, 6-3 SEC) came out with an early 10-4 lead within the first six minutes, but things spiraled out of control from there. The Bulldogs (12-10, 2-7 SEC) exploded for a 16-3 run with nine points coming from star freshman Anthony Edwards. A likely top-five pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, Edwards scored 18 points in the first half and 32 total to lead all scorers.
Florida scored just 16 more points the rest of the half, shooting 11 for 31 (35.5 percent) from the field. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, shot over 50 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from behind the arc to take a 41-26 lead into halftime.
“(The) ball wasn’t going in for us (in) the first half,” coach Mike White said. “I thought we had several good looks, they just wouldn’t go, and Anthony Edwards hits some big shots and also Georgia’s playing harder than we are on our home court.”
The beginning of the second half only brought more misery, with the Bulldogs scoring eight of the first 12 points of the frame.
But a Gators offense that previously only found iron suddenly struck gold. Center Jason Jitoboh hit a jumper three-and-a-half minutes into the half to kickstart a 15-3 run for Florida and reduce the deficit to just eight.
Two minutes later, guard Andrew Nembhard’s jumper began a 22-2 run for Florida to give it a 69-59 lead with 5:56 to go. The sophomore scored 10 points during that stretch.
UF managed to hold on to complete the comeback and avoid an ugly loss to its SEC rival.
“We’re very emotional as a team,” White said. “When things are going really good, we play really well.
“We’ve seen when we dig ourselves 20-point deficits, and that’s not what championship teams do.”
The Gators switched to a 3-2 zone that morphed into man-on-man in the second half, and it gave the Bulldogs fits. Florida forced seven turnovers and scored a staggering 17 points because of it. It hit 60 percent of its shots from the floor in the frame and was 7 of 11 from three-point land.
“We just did real well in that, we got most of our stops, big rebounds and charges from Tre (Mann) as well, so it just helped us,” forward Keyontae Johnson said. “I don’t think they knew that we were translating back to man (defense), so it kind of messed them up.”
Mann finished the half with 11 points, joining Nembhard (19) and Johnson (13) with double-digit points in the frame. Nembhard led the team with 25 points in the game.
The Gators improved to 7-3 at home and will travel to Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend to face Ole Miss (11-11, 2-7 SEC).
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