GEORGIA 84, FLORIDA 79: Sans 2 players, Bulldogs shock nation's No. 2 team.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2002
GAINESVILLE -- Jim Harrick wasn't very excited about coming to the O'Connell Center on Saturday.
His Georgia basketball team was coming off a tough home loss Wednesday night to Alabama and still reeling from the indefinite suspension of its starting center and a reserve guard.
All he wanted was a fighting chance for his Bulldogs to rebound.
Rebound? Did they ever.
No. 20 Georgia overcame a 14-point first-half deficit and outscored the Gators 13-0 during a three-minute stretch late in the game to stun No. 2 Florida 84-79 in front of 12,375.
It is the second time in two years Georgia (15-3, 4-1 SEC) has beaten the Gators at home. The Bulldogs were the last team to beat the Gators at home dating to last season.
"I'm not sure we caught Florida at their best game, but I can't worry about that," Harrick said. "I was really proud of our players today. It has been an unbelievably emotional week for our team and to come back and give this kind of effort was tremendous."
Guard Fred Gibson, the former Georgia high school standout who committed to Florida, then changed his mind, helped win it for the Bulldogs.
Gibson scored 13 in 16 minutes, including six over the final 50 seconds. He was 4-for-4 from the line in that span, capping his final free throws with a Gator chomp that angered Florida fans.
"He's a freshman, he didn't know any better," said Florida center Udonis Haslem, who finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. "Before it's over, he'll learn to have some respect."
Florida (15-2, 4-1) saw its school-record 14-game winning streak come to an end.
"We just did not play well," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "The focus was there. ... But from an execution standpoint, offensively and defensively the things that we try to do, we just did not do a very good job at all."
Junior guard LaDarius Halton was 4-of-4 from 3-point range as Florida led by 14 with 5:46 remaining in the first half and 39-36 at halftime. Georgia used a 9-1 run to end the half and took advantage of the foul trouble of Florida guards Orien Greene (six points) and Brett Nelson.
The Bulldogs altered their game plan for the second half. With tenacious defense in place, the Bulldogs' Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams found their stride. Hayes had 17 of his 23 points in the second half and Williams scored 13 of his 19 in the final 20 minutes. With a size disadvantage, Georgia was outrebounded 43-34, but shot 62 percent from the field in the second half.
"In the second half, we wanted to run our offense and we did," Harrick said. "And when we run our offense, we are very, very hard to beat."
A seesaw second half ensued, but with Florida leading 67-62 with 4:08 remaining, Georgia went on a 13-0 run to take a 75-67 lead. Georgia was 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 37 seconds.
Florida shot 40 percent in the game, but struggled with consistency and offensive rhythm.
"We did not make shots tonight because I didn't think our shot selection was great," Donovan said. "But you have to credit Georgia because I thought they played very, very well."
Florida forward Matt Bonner scored 16 and had 12 rebounds, and Nelson added 17 points.
Georgia's Steve Thomas and Tony Cole were suspended indefinitely Wednesday pending the results of an investigation into an alleged rape.
Florida starting guard Justin Hamilton missed his second straight game because of the shoulder he separated last week.