Florida vs. Georgia score, takeaways: Gators outlast Dawgs as Thomas Haugh makes statement

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 17, 2024
Florida vs. Georgia score, takeaways: Gators outlast Dawgs as Thomas Haugh makes statement

Image Credit: UAA

Saturday marked a coming out party of sorts for a couple Florida Gators freshmen as head coach Todd Golden improved to 4-0 over now-Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mike White on the back of an 88-82 road victory. Florida has now won seven of its last eight games with more momentum than it has held at any point this season.

What went right for the Gators on Saturday afternoon in Athens, Georgia? Let’s take a look.

It was over when … redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin hit four straight free throws to put the Gators ahead 88-82 with 14 seconds remaining. Florida and Georgia fought tooth and nail down the stretch, trading baskets — but mostly fouls — in the latter part of the game. With the Gators up three, freshman forward Thomas Haugh grabbed a clutch offensive rebound, hitting one of two gimmies to push the visitors up four with 53 seconds left. The Bulldogs then missed a 3-pointer preceding Pullin’s first couple free throws, and Pullin hit two more just a few seconds later for the final margin.

Florida took its first lead of the game at 52-50 on the back of a 12-4 scoring stretch to open the second half. The Gators then extended their advantage to nine points with less than 6 minutes to play as freshman F Alex Condon drained a triple with junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. simultaneously getting shoved under the basket for a combined 5-point play. The Dawgs chipped away every time UF built a second-half lead with the visitors holding a 3-point margin entering the final 78 seconds.

First half focus: Georgia was simply unable to miss over the first third of the period, opening an 11-point lead on the visitors. However, Florida responded with an extended 18-9 scoring stretch over 5 minutes to cut its deficit down to a single basket. It was back and forth from there with Gators uncharacteristically being outscored 22-16 in the paint and the Dawgs holding that exact 6-point margin at the break.

Exceptional efforts: While Clayton and Pullin will get their flowers, the duo of Haugh and Condon are the reason Florida won this game. With many of the team’s other contributors struggling, the neophyte tandem was all over the court making big plays. Haugh posted a career-high 17 points, hitting his first three triples of the game and finishing 3 of 4 from deep. He only had six 3-pointers on the season entering Saturday’s game. Haugh also grabbed seven boards, adding a block and a steal, showcasing the type of potential that could make him an All-SEC performer next season. Condon’s numbers were not as gaudy, but he played 19 important minutes, grabbing three crucial offensive boards while scoring 10 points.

Clayton was again the Gators’ top scorer, posting 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Pullin continued his ascension to the top tier of the SEC, scoring 16 points while hitting all six of his free throws; he also registered team-highs of five dimes, seven boards and two steals. It’s become truly tough to stop Florida when Clayton and Pullin are simultaneously on their games.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 124-103 all-time against Georgia with a 45-62 mark in Athens … Golden is now 4-0 over White, the former UF coach … the Gators have won seven of their last eight games … Florida picked up a rare victory when tied or trailing at halftime (3-4) and when being outshot by an opponent (4-6) … the Gators improved to 16-4 when outrebounding an opponent and 12-2 when outshooting an opponent from downtown

Florida was not as dominant as usual in the paint but still pulled out edges scoring (26-34) and rebounding (39-31) … the Gators had a massive 15-7 edge on the offensive glass, resulting in a 16-4 advantage on second-chance points … sophomore G Riley Kugel continued his see-saw season, scoring just 5 points on 2 of 10 shooting, though he did grab six rebounds in 18 minutes

What it means: This was a significant Quadrant 2 road victory for the Gators, which are now 16-0 in the latter quadrants to go along with two recent Quadrant 1 wins. Florida is firmly in the NCAA Tournament at this juncture and needs to played controlled basketball over its final six regular-season games. The Gators are 11 games over .500 and playing their best ball in at least seven years. Golden continues to improve his game management as the season progresses, and Florida actually strengthened in the second half as opposed to falling off as it has in so many games recently. Winning seven of eight games is no accident, but there are still difficult opponents ahead.

What’s next? Florida will remain on the road for a second straight game when it visits Alabama on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. ET tip off. The game will air live on ESPN2. The Crimson Tide presently sit No. 15 in the AP Top 25, and the Gators will play them twice — among three ranked games — to conclude the regular season.

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