Dawgs have big Mo after win over Florida

ATHENS — Left-for-dead Georgia took no pity on short-handed Florida on Tuesday night, beating the Gators 76-62 and adding steam to the Bulldogs' improbable NCAA Tournament run.

Senior point guard Rashad Wright had 18 points for Georgia, including the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer with 1:42 left that gave his team a 62-54 lead. Senior Damien Wilkins hit six free throws in the final 30 seconds and led the way with 19.

The win gave the Bulldogs (13-10 overall, 5-7 SEC) just their second two-game winning streak in the conference. It was also their second straight victory over a team ranked in the top 12 of the RPI, meaning it will be considered a quality win come Selection Sunday.

A crowd of 10,053 watched the game live in Stegeman Coliseum and, more importantly to Georgia coach Dennis Felton, millions more saw it on ESPN.

"It's another step," Felton said, "and it's a really good step because Florida is one of the premier teams in the country, and it was a nationally televised game, and we were pretty impressive, so all kinds of folks, including Selection Committee folks, got to see our team."

Many of the fans in attendance stormed the court after the game, drawing an angry reaction from Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who felt his players were physically threatened and jostled by Bulldog fans.

Georgia lost its first two SEC games by a combined 45 points and started the conference season 1-5, but it has won 4 of 6 since with all those victories coming at home. The Bulldogs get another home game Saturday, when they play Tennessee at 2 p.m.

"It's real good, but we have to keep it going," senior Chris Daniels said. "We can enjoy it for a while, but then we've got to get ready for Saturday."

The Bulldogs still need to win at least two, and probably three, of their four final regular season games to have a shot at an at-large NCAA bid.

The Gators, formerly the No. 1 team in the country, lost for the fourth time in their last five games and fell to 14-8 overall and 5-6 in the conference.

Florida played without starting forward Christian Drejer, who reportedly is contemplating leaving the Gators for a professional team in Europe and didn't make the trip to Athens, and reserve center Bonnell Colas, who is serving a team-imposed suspension.

Matt Walsh led the Gators with 28 points. Wright shut down the Gators' leading scorer, guard Anthony Roberson, who came in averaging 17.3 points but hit just 1 of 11 shots against Georgia.

"It's hard to talk enough about Rashad's defensive ability," Wilkins said. "He has the ability to take a player out of their game, and that's what he did to Roberson."

Wilkins had six assists and seven rebounds in addition to his 19 points for the Bulldogs. Freshman guard Levi Stukes added 15 points and four steals for Georgia, which shot 54.8 percent from the field.

Florida turned a five-point halftime lead into nine points in the first 3:13 of the second half. The Gators took a 40-31 lead on a 3-pointer by Lee Humphrey with 16:47 left in the game. Georgia then scored 14 of the next 16 points to take a 45-42 lead on a long jump shot by Chris Daniels with 11:39 left.

The Bulldogs extended that lead to six points when Gators coach Billy Donovan received a technical foul for arguing a no-call under Georgia's basket. Wilkins hit one of the two free throws to put Georgia up 53-47 with 9:10 left.

The Gators bounced back to close the gap to three at 53-50, but the Bulldogs pulled away from there.

The Bulldogs and Gators traded the lead five times in the final six minutes of the first half, but Florida scored the final six points before the break to take a 34-29 lead into the locker room.

Stukes hit three 3-pointers in the game's first 10 minutes to help the Bulldogs to an early nine-point lead. Freshman Steve Newman put Georgia up 22-13 with a layup with 9:21 remaining.

However, on the next possession, Coach Dennis Felton went deep on his bench and inserted seldom-used Marcus Sikes and walk-on Jay McAuley. The move proved costly as the Gators scored seven points in the next minute and a half.

Adrian Moss cut the Georgia lead to 22-20 with a basket and free throw with 7:55 remaining before Felton could get Wright back in the game.

Moss eventually tied the game at 22-22 with a pair of free throws with 6:46 left.

NOTES: Florida freshman Mohamed Abukar finally took the Stegeman Coliseum floor for the first time with 15:57 left in the first half.

Abukar was a member of Jim Harrick's final signing class but was released from his scholarship after Harrick's dismissal and decided to enroll at Florida. He entered the game averaging just 7.6 minutes and 1.2 points but was forced into early action due to the Gators' shorter-than-normal bench. He played 16 minutes and missed six of seven shots against the Bulldogs. ... At halftime, NFL Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks made an appearance on the court to present Georgia's David Pollack with the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end. Hendricks, who played at the University of Miami, won over the crowd when he opened his remarks by saying, "One thing we have in common is we hate the Gators." Georgia football coaches Mark Richt, Brian VanGorder, Jon Fabris and Willie Martinez were in attendance to see Pollack receive his award.

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