Georgia put a halt Tuesday night to a tailspin that threatened to derail its season and picked up some momentum to build on heading to February.
The Bulldogs’ 72-60 win over No. 23 Florida in Stegeman Coliseum was a good first step to getting back to where they want to be in building its NCAA tournament credentials.
It will need more than that after snapping a three-game losing streak and winning for just the second time in the last seven games.
UGA president Jere Morehead brought up that the game could be big for the direction of the season.
“We need to beat Florida tonight,” he told the Athletic Association’s executive board Tuesday afternoon at its winter meeting. He later told the full board: “It’s obviously a very important game with implications for the postseason.”
Georgia (13-8, 4-5 SEC) is on the road for its next two games starting with Mississippi State Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs beat Florida (15-7, 6-3) for the first time since Jan. 17, 2015, snapping a four-game losing streak in the series.
They used a 9-0 second-half run after Florida grabbed the momentum out of the locker room, but Georgia clamped down on the Gators, who missed 15 straight shots and made just one of 20 in a second-half span until Keith Stone’s 3-pointer with 1:07 to go after Georgia led 66-53.
The Gators outscored Georgia 12-2 to start second half to take a 44-39 lead.
With Yante Maten and Derek Ogbeide waiting in front of the scorer’s table to check-in, freshman forward Nicolas Claxton (five points, eight rebounds) helped the Bulldogs go on a spurt to tie the game at 48.
Claxton hit a 3-pointer, grabbed a defensive rebound and guard Jordan Harris scored on a layin to tie the game. Claxton on the other end blocked a shot by Florida’s Gorjok.
Georgia led 55-51 after Ogbeide’s turnaround score and a jump hook from Maten (20 points, seven rebounds) that he completed into a three-point play with 7:00 to go.
Freshman forward Nicolas Claxton scored on a layin on a pass from Crump for a 57-51 with 6:18 to go. The Bulldogs led 60-53 after a Yante Maten 3-pointer with 4:50 to go.
Florida missed 17 of 18 shots during its second half offensive funk that came after Florida made their first five shots of the half—including a pair of 3-pointers from Jalen Hudson.
When a wide open KeVaughn Allen took a pass from Chris Chiozza (15 points) and dunked, the Gators bench was on their feet with a 44-39 lead with 17:05 left in the half and prompting Fox to call a timeout.
It was just Georgia’s second win since Jan. 6, which had left the Bulldogs’ confidence shaken and knocked them from a projected NCAA tournament team to considered outside the field.
Florida at No. 38 in the RPI is Georgia’s third-highest ranked win this season and fifth top 50 win along with Alabama, Saint Mary’s, Temple and Marquette. The Bulldogs are 2-2 against ranked opponents.
Georgia trailed 24-18 before going on a 15-2 run fueled by its 3-point shooting.
The Bulldogs started 7 of 24 from the floor but guard Tyree Crump hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Harris made one of two free throws, Juwan Parker buried a 3. After a Gorjok Gak layin, Turtle Jackson (16 points) canned a 3-pointer and Maten dunked on a feed from Parker makes it 33-26 with 2:41 left in the first half.
Georgia had a season-low 51 points and a season-low two 3-pointers Saturday in a 56-51 loss at Kansas State, but made six of 15 in the first half Tuesday.
In the final minute, Georgia students offered a cheer you might expect with the Bulldogs win looking secure: “Just like football.”