Gators win at home: 63-55

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dennis Felton emerged from Georgia's most bitter loss of the season Wednesday night with a message of hope.

Although Florida dealt the Bulldogs' NCAA Tournament hopes a huge blow with a 63-55 win in front of 11,011 fans at the O'Connell Center, Felton is not close to giving up on the season, he said.

"I just told the team I think we have quite a few wins left in us," he said. "I'm proud of the way we fought tonight. I'm happy with our intensity, our effort and our approach. There is not a team in the country fighting any harder than us right now.

"I believe what I told them."

The Bulldogs (14-12 overall, 6-9 SEC) must win their final game of the regular season, Saturday at home against Vanderbilt, and probably at least one in the SEC Tournament next week to have any hope of being invited to the NCAA Tournament. And that record might not be enough, considering Wednesday's loss dropped them to 1-9 on the road this season.

"We've still got high hopes," point guard Rashad Wright said.

Georgia forced 14 Florida turnovers and outscored the Gators 28-7 off turnovers but didn't get enough out of its halfcourt offense to make it count. The Bulldogs hit just 4 of 21 3-pointers (19 percent) and missed eight of their 21 free throws.

"I felt like we, for the most part, played the game on our terms," Felton said. "It would have helped if we had shot the ball better. If we could have made a couple 3s, the whole complexion of the game would have changed."

The Gators (18-8, 9-6) made two big runs but didn't put the game away until Matt Walsh made two free throws to put his team up 61-55 with 13 seconds remaining. Walsh led Florida with 22 points. Point guard Anthony Roberson, who had three points in the Bulldogs' 76-62 upset of the Gators on Feb. 17, had 19, including 14 in the first half.

Georgia was led by a very efficient performance from senior Chris Daniels, who had 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting, including his first 3-pointer of the season.

Daniels' trey set up the Bulldogs' first lead of the game. It came with 10:21 left in the game and pulled Georgia within three at 45-42. On the ensuing possession, Damien Wilkins split the Gator defense for a dunk that made it 45-44, and Wright hit a 3-pointer with 9:04 left to put Georgia up 47-46.

"When we took that lead, I thought we could maintain our defensive intensity and keep our turnovers down," senior forward Jonas Hayes said, "but obviously Florida played hard, too."

Florida took the lead for good two minutes later at 55-54 on a free throw by Matt Walsh. Georgia had two chances in the final 1:30 to tie the game, but freshman Levi Stukes missed a 3-pointer and Daniels turned the ball over on the next possession, basically ending Georgia's hopes. The Bulldogs scored only one point in the final 3:08 of the game.

"It became a one-possession game, and we couldn't make the shot and they did," Felton said.

Georgia trailed by as many as 12 late in the first half but cut the lead to two points on a basket by Daniels with 17:54 left in the game that made the score 34-32. The Gators tried to pull away again, pushing their lead back to nine points on a turnaround 3-pointer by Roberson with 13:46 left in the game that put Florida up 43-34.

"We feel like we're never out of a game," Hayes said. "It's horrible when you come up short in such an important game."

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