Florida vs. Georgia score, takeaways: Gators battle back to beat Dawgs, Mike White in O’Dome

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 7, 2023
Florida vs. Georgia score, takeaways: Gators battle back to beat Dawgs, Mike White in O’Dome

Image Credit: UAA

With its backs against the wall while hosting a rival at home, the Florida Gators mounted a massive comeback and then played some of their best basketball of the season in a 82-75 win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. In doing so, the Gators handed the Dawgs their seventh straight defeat in the series.

Florida also beat former head coach Mike White, who defected to Georgia in the offseason with his job status at UF uncertain entering the 2022-23 campaign.

Ironically enough, the game was not that dissimilar from ones the Gators experienced with White at the helm with the difference being they ultimately benefitted by the final whistle. Whereas with White it would be Florida taking an early lead and faltering late, this time it was Georgia going up 13 points in the first half only to trail by as many midway through the second half.

The Gators’ comeback was based entirely on effort from both the players and head coach Todd Golden. After a slow start, the players battled on defense, chased rebounds and loose balls, forced turnovers, pushed the ball up the court on fastbreaks and made extra passes to create open shots. Golden made key personnel changes to ensure the hottest and most effective players were on the court. One could say Florida executed in many ways it had previously struggled throughout the season.

What went down in the Gators’ seventh straight victory over the Dawgs? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … redshirt senior guard Kyle Lofton found freshman G Riley Kugel for an alley-oop — the second in the game’s final 30 seconds — to push Florida ahead 82-75 before the buzzer. Half a minute earlier, Lofton was dribbling down the clock as the Gators nursed a four-point lead when he drove the lane and found Kugel the first time for an alley-oop just a second before the buzzer sounded.

Florida used an 11-0 run in the second half to take a 10-point lead on Georgia with 12:12 to play. The Gators eventually went up 13, fully flipping the 13-point deficit they experienced in the first half. The Dawgs battled back with a 9-0 run of their own but never got closer than three points as Florida consistently answered baskets with field goals and free throws while maintaining its advantage down the stretch.

First half focus: After Florida seemed ready to start hot offensively, it again fell completely ice cold. Georgia used a 19-2 run to take a 13-point lead as the Gators went scoreless over a 5:20 stretch. They missed 11 straight baskets over a 9-minute period as the visitors outscored the hosts 21-6. However, fueled by defense, rebounding and key shot making, Florida kept chipping away before pulling away. The Gators made nine straight baskets to end the half, using a 15-2 run as part of an extended 21-4 scoring stretch to not only overcome its deficit but take a 39-34 lead into the half. It was easily the program’s best offensive stretch of the season, and it came with Castleton blocking six shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Exceptional efforts: Lofton was clearly Florida’s star of the game; he posted a team-high 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting with three assists while making two key free throws late in the contest. Castleton was spectacular on both ends with 12 points, eight rebounds, five dimes and seven blocks, six of which he swatted in the first half alone. While Lofton and Castleton carried the Gators to victory, they would not have been in the game without the all-around effort of redshirt senior G Myreon Jones.

Besides the fact that Jones finally found his shooting stroke scoring 13 points while making 3 of 4 triples, he was the Gators’ most active player on defense with three steals to go along with three boards and two dimes. He was the pendulum on which the game’s momentum swung, and two of his 3-pointers were crucial in UF’s success: one kicked off its first-half scoring stretch, and another immediately answered a UGA trey during a key portion of the second half.

Odds and ends: Winning its seventh straight in the series, Florida improved to 121-103 all-time against Georgia with a 69-38 mark in the O’Dome … the Gators still do not have a Quadrant 1 or 2 win this season … Florida is now 8-1 when scoring 75+ points, 7-2 when leading at halftime, 8-1 when leading with 5 minutes remaining and 7-1 when shooting 45% or better from the field … the Gators were outrebounded (40-37) but significantly outscored the Dawgs in the paint (42-26) … Florida also outscored Georgia off the bench (35-17) and on the fastbreak (17-9) … UF’s 15 assists matched its third-most of the season, and it is now 3-1 with 15+ dimes in a game

Jones has now made 13 of 23 attempts from downtown over his last three games vs. UGA … sophomores Will Richard (14 points) and Kowacie Reeves (12 points) also finished in double figures; Richard added nine boards and two dimes, while Reeves grabbed five rebounds with three assists

What it means: Facing a fourth straight loss, the Gators locked down and picked up a much-needed win to end their three-game skid. Florida’s entire comeback was predicated on defense, rebounding and effort. The additional scoring opportunities created by its five schools and paint defense helped a team that has struggled offensively all season, and the Gators took advantage of those chances by charging to the hoop for easy baskets and moving the ball around the perimeter for open triples.

This was the exact type of effort that Golden has been expecting all season, and the want-to of the players coupled with some sound lineup decisions by Golden resulted in perhaps Florida’s best performance of the season given the opponent and stakes. Whether the Gators can use this as a turning point for the campaign remains to be seen, but they put a lot of good work on film that Golden should be able to use going forward.

What’s next? The Gators will hit the road for the first time in 2023 when Florida visits LSU on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. ET tip with the game airing live on SEC Network.

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