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College basketball

Gators win 3-point duel with Dawgs

UF 66, GEORGIA 63: Anthony Roberson's 3 beats buzzer, sealing a controversial win.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

[AP photo]
Florida's Matt Walsh (44) and Adrian Moss (4) embrace Anthony Roberson (1) after he scored the winning shot against Georgia.
GAINESVILLE -- Anthony Roberson pump-faked, took one step back, put up a shot up, then back-pedaled from midcourt to the other end of the floor with his hands high in the air.

It seemed to take forever to fall. And with Jarvis Hayes, one of the best players in the Southeastern Conference all over him, Roberson and everyone else in the sold-out Stephen C. O'Connell Center held their collective breath to see if it would fall.

It did.

The Florida freshman's 25-foot 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left gave No. 11 Florida a 66-63 win over No. 20 Georgia in front of 12,422 Saturday afternoon.

"I took the shot and it was like a little rainbow shot, it seemed like it's going to fall, it's going to fall, it's going to fall," Roberson said. "When it went through the net and I saw everybody running at me, I thought they were going to hurt me man. I'm just happy I made it."

The outcome was not without controversy.

With the score tied at 63 with 19.1 seconds left, Hayes was called for an offensive foul in a collision with freshman Matt Walsh.

The foul gave possession to Florida, allowing the Gators to hold for the final shot.

"It was a tough call," said Hayes, who scored a team-high 25 and had five rebounds. "It could have gone both ways, and they called it offensive. It was a great game, just a tough call."

Georgia coach Jim Harrick, who was restrained by his assistants after the call, disagreed with the call.

"In that situation, let the players decide the game," Harrick said. "It was probably a no-call."

Florida is 4-0 against ranked opponents and has won five consecutive games decided by five points or fewer. It was the first buzzer-beater win at home for the Gators (13-2, 2-0 SEC) since Jan. 9, 1993. And it was one of those shots that will be a mainstay on Florida highlight reels though it was not necessarily supposed to be.

"When (Roberson) got the ball, time was winding down," coach Billy Donovan said. "I can tell you this, I did not design the play to look like that. I would be the first one to admit it. (Roberson) just made a good shot. It was just a great player making a great shot."

Hayes admitted Roberson's shot caught him by surprise.

"I was," he said. "He pump-faked to try to get me up in the air; it didn't work. He had to throw it over top of me and he got it off and it went in."

The basket capped a phenomenal late-game performance by Roberson and senior Matt Bonner, who combined for 27 of Florida's final 31 points. Roberson hit five straight 3-pointers in the final 8:56, finishing with 23 points.

It also ended an outstanding late-game performance by Hayes. With the Bulldogs (9-4, 1-1) trailing 58-49 with 4:38 left, Hayes went on a scoring rampage, hitting three straight 3s to tie it at 58.

After Roberson's 3-pointer with 1:48 remaining, Hayes answered with a 3 with 57 seconds left to give Georgia a 63-61 lead.

David Lee's dunk with 46.5 seconds left tied it at 63, setting the stage for the final shot.

With the Gators struggling from the field, Lee was instrumental in keeping Florida in the game with stellar defensive play. He finished with 16 points and a team-high 10 rebounds -- and at one point was the Gators' leading scorer and rebounder.

"I came into this game really trying to concentrate on rebounding because that is the best way I can contribute to my team," Lee said. "The theme has been all year that we are just trying to get a victory any way we can. ... The biggest thing for me is to help us on the boards."

If you missed the first 30 minutes, you didn't miss much. Both teams struggled from the tipoff, with the Gators shooting 2-for-10 in the first five minutes and eventually 41 percent in the first half. Georgia shot 35 percent in the first half, 39.3 percent overall.

Georgia led 35-30 at the half, aided by 10 points from guard Ezra Williams.

But in the second half, Florida's Justin Hamilton added to his reputation of being one of the best defenders in the league by holding Williams scoreless, and Florida went on a 23-4 run to turn a 10-point deficit into a 58-49 lead.

"He did a good job on Ezra," Harrick said. "He didn't score in the second half and that hurt us."

Florida's seniors struggled, with Brett Nelson going scoreless and Bonner scoring just three in the first half before finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds.

"It was feeling right, but nothing was going my way," Bonner said. "... Coach called a timeout and all my teammates just rallied around me and pumped me up. They gave me the confidence to go out and keep playing."

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