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Slow start, no problem

Early turnovers keep Georgia in the game, but Florida recovers to win 82-71.

©Associated Press, published February 4, 2001

[Times photo: AP photo]
Florida's Teddy Dupay, foreground, is tied up by Georgia's Shon Coleman during the second half Saturday.
ATHENS, Ga. -- The Gators were a long way from perfect Saturday afternoon, but they were capable enough to overcome problems in the opening half for their fourth straight victory.

No. 13 Florida started 1-for-7 from the field and turned over the ball 11 times in the first half. But the Gators recovered by making 15 of 18 shots before the break for a lead they never relinquished, going on to beat the Bulldogs 82-71.

But the early sloppiness left a bad taste for the Gators.

"You take away half of those (first-half turnovers) and our lead would have been twice as big," said sophomore guard Brett Nelson, who scored 18.

Four days after beating No. 8 Tennessee 81-67, the Gators won their second straight Southeastern Conference game against a ranked opponent for the first time since 1974.

"We got into shooting too quickly into their defense," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Once we settled in and started making the extra pass, we created easier shots. It helped us being able to press and force them to play both ends up and down."

D.A. Layne led the Bulldogs (13-9, 6-3 SEC) with 23 points. Georgia, which last Saturday upset Tennessee in overtime to move into first place in the SEC Eastern Division, lost its second straight.

Florida (15-4, 5-3) led by 16 when Matt Bonner put back his miss to make it 49-33 with 16:23 remaining.

Georgia closed within seven on a three-pointer by Layne, but Robb Dryden missed a 3-footer and Nelson hit a three-pointer to give Florida a 60-50 lead with 9:13 left.

Nelson, who leads the SEC with an 18.3 scoring average in league games, made a layup on a pick-and-roll with 4:22 to put the Gators up by 12 and followed with a three-pointer 40 seconds later to make it 71-56.

"The main thing was that we settled down defensively," said Nelson, who had five steals. "We got some stops and just tried to stay on top of them."

Playing before their third straight home sellout for the first time, the Bulldogs again made it a seven-point game on two free throws by Layne with 1:47 remaining. They never got closer.

"We just didn't have any zip tonight," Georgia coach Jim Harrick said. "We couldn't shoot the ball today."

UF reserve guard Teddy Dupay scored 14. Dupay was playing his second straight game since returning from a Jan. 10 surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

"It's no fun watching, no matter how much pain you're in," Dupay said. "The thing that's been key for me is just to think things through. So much of this game is mental, and that's what I've been leaning on, especially against two of the most physical teams in the league."

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