GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 13 University of Florida men’s basketball team overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to record a 71-62 victory against the Georgia Bulldogs that helped them keep pace in the Southeastern Conference title chase with the West-leading Alabama Crimson Tide. Florida (22-5, 11-2 SEC) swept Georgia for the first time since 2008 and extended their winning streak versus the Bulldogs in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to nine. As a result, the Gators clinched the top seed in the SEC East and are deadlocked in the overall SEC standings with Alabama heading into the final three games of conference play.
The game was closely contested at the start, with Georgia making a high percentage of their attempts while hot shooting from junior point guard Erving Walker (Brooklyn, N.Y.) kept the Gators close. Walker scored eight of Florida’s first 10 points to keep the Orange and Blue within two at the under-16 media timeout.
Georgia quickly went on a 9-2 run to build a 21-12 advantage and after a three-point play the old-fashioned way by UGA’s Travis Leslie, the Bulldogs led 31-20 with 3:23 left in the opening stanza. Florida responded with a steal by senior forward Alex Tyus (St. Louis, Mo.) that turned into a Scottie Wilbekin (Gainesville, Fla.) lay-up and after a defensive stop on the ensuing possession, got two more points on a Chandler Parsons (Casselberry, Fla.) drive to the basket, closing the gap to 31-24. After Georgia’s Gerald Robinson made a lay-up, Tyus gave the home team a lift, grabbing a misfire from Parsons and finishing at the rim as time expired to send the Gators into the locker room down 33-26.
Florida carried its momentum into the second half, buoyed by Parsons who had a breakaway dunk, a stick-back after swooping in for an offensive rebound and a triple in the first 2:58 of the second half and the three drew the Gators even at 35 for the first time since the 13:57 mark of the first half.
A Robinson three put Georgia on top by three and they remained in front until Florida’s upperclassmen led the charge during an 8-0 surge that gave the Gators a 47-42 edge with 12:04 to play. Senior center Vernon Macklin (Portsmouth, Va.) finished a lay-up despite contact, and converted the free throw to knot the game at 42. After a Trey Thompkins turnover on an in-bounds pass, Walker slashed to the basket and made a lay-up forcing Georgia into a timeout. Following another Bulldog turnover, Parsons buried a trifecta as the Gators took their largest lead of the game to that point.
Florida led by as many as six until a three-point play by UGA’s Jeremy Price and two Leslie free throws brought the Bulldogs within 52-51 with 7:30 remaining.
From there, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton (Pompano Beach, Fla.) took over. He knocked down a three off a feed from Wilbekin and after a Thompkins lay-up, connected on another three eight seconds later to extend the lead to 58-53. After the Gator defense created another a turnover, Boynton sank yet another three. On the ensuing possession, he collected a rebound and drove coast-to-coast before dropping a pass off to Tyus who converted a lay-up to give Florida a 63-53 cushion with 5:10 on the clock.
It took the Bulldogs just 1:32 to trim the Gator lead to four with Leslie and Thompkins combining for six quick points during that span before Parsons stemmed the tide with a driving lay-up. The Gators salted the game away at the free throw line, making 6-of-9 in the last 1:39 to pick up a crucial victory.
Four Gators reached double figures in scoring, topped by Boynton with 18 points—his sixth straight game in double figures. Parsons, in his return from a thigh injury that kept him out of Florida’s previous contest at LSU, added 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Walker and Tyus contributed 15 and 12 points, respectively.
After allowing Georgia to shoot 15-of-25 (60.0 percent) in the first half, the defense clamped down, holding the Bulldogs to 11-of-27 (40.7 percent) in the second half. Florida also helped its cause by only committing a season-low five turnovers and making more free throws (14) than Georgia attempted (10).
Leslie led Georgia with 20 points while teammate Thompkins was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 16.
Florida travels to Rupp Arena to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast to a national audience on CBS.