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Starting guard Justin Hamilton tears an ACL and is out for the season as Florida falls 75-72 to Georgia.
By JOANNE KORTH
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001
GAINESVILLE -- Injury-riddled Florida lost a hard-fought Southeastern Conference basketball game Wednesday night. Even worse, the Gators lost another starter.
Sophomore guard Justin Hamilton injured his left knee late in No. 7 Florida's 75-72 loss to Georgia before 11,981 at the O'Connell Center. The diagnosis was a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a season-ending injury.
An MRI exam is scheduled for today.
Hamilton is the third UF starter to sustain a serious injury in the past two weeks. Senior forward Brent Wright had surgery Jan. 4 to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, and junior guard Teddy Dupay had back surgery Jan. 10.
"No one is going to feel sorry for us," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "And I won't allow our players to feel sorry for themselves. The guys we have left still love to play. They are facing a huge obstacle, but we have to find some solutions and get some things done."
Freshman guard Orien Greene likely will start Saturday against Vanderbilt, when Florida will have seven scholarship players and one walk-on available. Two ineligible walk-ons give the Gators 10 practice players.
"It's tough when another teammate goes down, but we have to keep our heads up," center Udonis Haslem said.
Florida (11-3, 1-2 SEC) fought back from deficits of 11 in the first half and 10 in the second, taking a 64-62 lead on Greene's dunk with 5:11 left. But every time the Gators rallied, Georgia (10-7, 3-1) answered. The Bulldogs regained the lead for good at 69-68 on Ezra Williams' driving layup with 3:21 left.
Williams led all scorers with 24, joined in double figures by teammates D.A. Layne (19), Anthony Evans (15) and Shon Coleman (10).
Haslem and guard Brett Nelson combined for 20 of Florida's final 24 points, but neither got off a shot after Haslem made two free throws to pull within 73-72 with 1:23 left. Haslem and Nelson had 20 points each, and Matt Bonner had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The Gators failed to convert three late scoring chances. Hamilton stole the ball in full-court pressure and was driving for a potential go-ahead layup when his knee gave out and he lost control of the ball with 1:08 left.
"We had a chance to get a three-point play and instead we get a turnover," Donovan said. "I knew something was seriously wrong because he looked in shock, his whole facial expression and his eyes."
On its next possession, Florida tried to work the ball inside to Haslem, but the Bulldogs double-teamed him in the lane, forcing Greene to take an off-balance 10-foot jumper that missed hard off the backboard.
Trailing by three with 4.5 seconds left, Florida scripted an inbounds play that called for Bonner to throw the ball the length of the court to Haslem, who would kick it out to Nelson streaking down the sideline for a three-point shot. But Bonner's pass was overthrown and went out of bounds off Haslem's fingertips.
"They didn't quit," Donovan said. "They battled all the way to the end. When they got down by 10 they could have packed it in, but they didn't. They kept battling. We had a chance to win and didn't make plays coming down the stretch."