Tuesday January 14, 201425 Straight! Gators Dominate Georgia, Set O'Dome Mark for Consecutive Home Wins
The Rowdy Reptiles watched the Gators win a school-record 25th consecutive home game Tuesday night.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Georgia won its first two Southeastern Conference games, including a stunning road upset of Missouri, behind relentless rebounding and the play of its guards.
The Florida coaching staff put a premium on the former and target on the latter.
From the opening tip, the 7th-ranked Gators sent waves of double-teams and traps at the Bulldogs’ backcourt, which never really knew where the defense was coming from, yet knew rather early where Tuesday’s game was headed.
“We were able to get out on them and get an early lead,” UF sophomore guard Michael Frazier said. “Then we kind of kept in there the whole game.”
Frazier poured in 21 points, including four rapid-fired 3-pointers in the second half, and the Gators’ defense stifled the Bulldogs into their season-low scoring output for a 72-50 victory that marked a school-record 25th straight home win before 12,051 at the O’Connell Center.
Sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith came off the bench to score 14 points, while senior bigs Will Yeguete and Patric Young combined for 22 points and 15 rebounds on 9-for-13 shooting from the floor. The backcourt tandem of senior Scottie Wilbekin and freshman Kasey Hill, in the starting lineup for the first time, paired for 10 assists and no turnovers.
For the Gators (14-2, 3-0), it was a seventh straight win and kept them out in front and unbeaten in the early SEC race.
And it was keyed by defense ordered up by Billy Donovan.
“Coach D wanted to bring fatigue into the game,” Finney-Smith said. “That’s why we pressed the whole time."
Kept coming, actually, only Georgia guards Charles Mann, named Monday as the SEC Player of the Week, and Kenny Gaines never got a read on just where the Florida pressure was going to come from. Mann and Gaines came into the game having averaged 36.5 points through two league games -- more than half their team’s output, with Mann playing 40 minutes in both -- but together totaled zero field goals and seven turnovers at the break.
“Really, the game was decided in the first half in our lack of poise offensively,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “When you play like boys in a man’s game, you’ve got to be tougher than we were tonight.”
The game was tied at 6 not quite four minutes in when Florida took off on a 13-0 run, spurred by a pair of treys from Frazier and Finney-Smith, to initiate the rout. The Bulldogs (8-7, 2-1) scored just four points over an 11-minute dry spell that allowed the Gators to take a whopping 30-10 lead.
A lot of it was Florida’s press, but the home team was awfully on point in the halfcourt too, making good on switches and playing cleanly through pick-and-roll coverages. UF’s defense melted Georgia into 12 first-half turnovers that led to 16 points.
The home crowd had a thirst for it, too. The Rowdy Reptile student section was out en massed for “Patric Young Beard Night,” with the 1,000 students armed with fake, fuzzy and really funny-looking beards.
“My mom would kill me if my beard was that long,” Young said.
Mrs. Young didn’t have to worry about the beard. Or her son’s team, at least not for long. The Gators led 36-16 at halftime, with the Bulldogs hitting just 31.6 percent from the floor to UF’s 50.
In the second half, the Gators' offense fell back a bit into the stagnating mode had drawn Donovan’s ire recently. It didn’t last long, though.
“There was a spurt there where we weren’t great in the second half,” said Donovan, who watched his team let the Dawgs creep twice within 14 before lowering the boom. “Then I thought we really exploded with about 10 minutes to go in the game.”
Credit Donovan and his assistants exploding on Frazier. The SEC’s leading 3-point shooter at 48.1 percent coming in, Frazier was 1-for-8 from the arc through 32-plus minutes and even passed on a couple open looks.
That did not sit well with Donovan.
“He kind of got yelled at,” Yeguete said.
Soon, the home crowd was yelling for him. In a good way.
Frazier nailed four straight 3s over a four-minute span. Along the way, Finney-Smith and Hill also hit one each, as the lead ballooned to 31 with three minutes to go.
“It wasn’t really frustration, but that feeling like, ‘Damn, I can’t make a shot,’ ” Frazier said. “My coaches and teammates just kept telling me to shoot the ball, then I was able to catch fire.”
The flame in UF’s defense, though, never went out. Georgia finished at 33 percent for the game and only one player had more than one offensive rebound.
“When you can be really physical and a team has to really focus on their defensive rebounding, it’s going to wear their bigs out,” Young said. “When we do that, we’re playing our [up-tempo] style of play, getting up and down the floor and just being, as Coach Donovan likes to say, being dogs.”
In this case, beating Dawgs.