Bulldogs can't topple Gators

Associated Press
Florida's Joakim Noah (right) is fouled by Georgia's Rashaad Singleton as he drives to the basket in Wednesday night's game.

ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia needed its most complete game of the season to beat No. 1 Florida on Wednesday.


The Bulldogs only did half the work in their attempt to make that reality.

Mike Mercer emerged from a shooting slump but didn't get much offensive help from his teammates as the top-ranked Gators held off the Bulldogs in the second half and won 71-61 before Stegeman Coliseum's largest crowd of the season.

Georgia (13-9, 5-5 in the SEC) continued its poor shooting from the perimeter, going 3-for-18 from the arc. In the past three games - all losses - the Bulldogs have shot 24 percent from 3-point range. (17-for-72).

Florida led by six at halftime, but the Gators (22-2, 9-0) streaked to a 13-point advantage in the first three minutes of the second half after they turned Sundiata Gaines' pair of ball-handling turnovers into five quick points.

Florida's lead slowly grew to 17 as Georgia went almost six minutes without a point past the 15-minute mark. Florida let its lead slip to single digits only once the rest of the way, and that came with less than two minutes remaining.

Georgia's defense was good enough to keep it close, but when the Bulldogs lapsed the Gators took advantage. Twice, Corey Brewer hit momentum-shattering 3-pointers in the first, and Lee Humphrey was effective as usual against the Bulldogs. Humphrey hit two crucial 3-pointers in the first half. In his past four games against Georgia, the senior 3-point specialist was 14-for-24 from the arc and scored a combined 53 points.

After four straight games of hesitation and inconsistency from the field, Mercer finally showed some gumption. He strayed away from the 3-point line and tested Florida's interior, scoring nine of his team-high 15 points in the first half.

Take away Mercer's production, and Georgia shot an abysmal 31.8 percent from the field. Florida's defense, which varied from man-to-man and 2-3 zone, forced the Bulldogs into rushed, low-percentage shots.

Gaines, Georgia's most consistent scorer during its three-game skid, was held to two points.