The Georgia Bulldogs could have used a win tonight, and, for a while, it looked like they would get it. The Fox Hounds held a 33-26 halftime lead on the Florida Gators in Gainesville, but the Orange and Blue narrowed the gap in the closing moments before intermission, and it was clear that a run by the home team was coming; the question was whether the Red and Black would be able to withstand it.
Ultimately, they were not, falling 71-62 in a game that, like the earlier meeting between the two teams, was closer than the final score indicated. Both teams shot well from the field, with Georgia hitting 50 per cent of its shots inside the arc (26 of 52) and Florida very nearly keeping pace by sinking 25 of the Gators’ 55 two-point tries. The Bulldogs pulled down 24 defensive boards to the Sunshine State Saurians’ ten offensive rebounds, and the Classic City Canines led in points in the paint (36-32).
Unfortunately, turnovers doomed the Hoop Dogs, as 13 Georgia giveaways led directly to 23 Gator points. The Florida bench outscored the Red and Black reserves by a 21-7 margin, with Chandler Parsons contributing 16 points and seven rebounds, and Kenny Boynton poured in a trio of treys while getting five of six free throws to fall. Although both teams shot 70 per cent from the charity stripe, the home team hit 14 of 20 foul shots and the visitors made seven of ten.
Why, then, don’t I feel particularly bad about losing a winnable game against a despised rival? Maybe it’s because the team didn’t fall apart, but instead kept fighting in the midst of adversity. Maybe it’s because the Bulldogs twice have gone toe-to-toe with the best team in the SEC, and have come up short only narrowly both times. Maybe it’s because this team came closer to getting the win than it ever was to needing the win.
I give the Gators their due: Florida has the best overall record among conference teams, and their league ledger is tied for the best in the SEC, despite the fact that the Sunshine State Saurians play in by far the harder division. What we learned tonight is that Georgia is almost as good a team as the best team in the Southeastern Conference.
The Gators won this one, fair and square, and I congratulate them on their victory, but, after watching the Bulldogs twice go toe-to-toe with Florida, no one Georgia will face from here on out scares me. Not the South Carolina Gamecocks. Not the LSU Tigers. Not the Alabama Crimson Tide. Not even the Florida Gators on
a neutral court a court in Atlanta that isn’t neutral because it’s called the Georgia Dome and it’s cooler there for us than it is for them.
The Bulldogs lost to a better team tonight. They may not face a better team for a while. Ain’t nobody out there that scares me.