Gators too much for Dawgs

ATLANTA – Hoping to prove themselves worthy of college basketball's biggest stage, Georgia barely looked like a college basketball team at times Friday night.

The Bulldogs fell behind No. 6 Florida 17-0 and eventually lost 74-57 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in the Georgia Dome.

"I wish I could explain what happened," senior Steve Newman after his team's second-worst loss of the season. "I guess the best word is we came out soft. It appeared we weren't ready to play out there."

Georgia had hoped a victory over Florida, the Eastern Division's top seed, would attract the attention of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Instead, it fell behind 31-6 and never threatened again.

Head coach Dennis Felton refuses to count his team out of the Big Dance, but it's doubtful the tournament wants to be associated with what it saw Friday. The Bulldogs, the fourth seed from the East, amassed 13 missed field goals, three turnovers and two missed free throws before they scored their first point, on a basket by Takais Brown with 13:51 left in the first half.

"I feel that we were as motivated as ever," Felton said. "I'd say we were probably a little tight. I think that's the best way that I can explain how we struggled offensively at the outset. As we struggled a little offensively, I think we found ourselves in a little bit of a daze in terms of all of its coming at us so quickly."

The silver lining to the pitch-black cloud is Georgia (18-13) probably will get another chance to play. The Bulldogs are expected to be selected for the National Invitation Tournament. (The selection show is Sunday night at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.) It would be Georgia's first national postseason tournament since 2004, Felton's first season.

The Bulldogs are projected as a No. 3 seed in the 32-team tournament by www.nitology.com. In that case, Georgia would host a first round game next week in Stegeman Coliseum.

It would be a welcome opportunity to wash a very bitter taste from their mouths.

"We really didn't come to play the way we should have, and we got showcased for it," sophomore guard Billy Humphrey said. "We couldn't have been (ready to play) the way we came out, so whether I felt we were or not, obviously we weren't."

Florida, playing six days after Felton made the comment that the Gators seemed to have lost their swagger, was led by point guard Taurean Green's 19 points.

"We did hear that they felt like if they beat us, that was a big chance for them to get in the NCAA Tournament, and we knew that we had to come out here and match their intensity level and take it to the next level," Florida center Al Horford said. "I feel like when we have that type of focus, we're a tough team to beat."

Horford and Corey Brewer each had 15 points.

The Gators, who played 60 miles from Georgia's campus but in front of a very friendly crowd, improved to 27-5 and advanced to play the winner of Friday's late game between Ole Miss and LSU today at 3:15 p.m.

Florida led 35-14 at halftime despite scoring just two points in the final 7:26 of the half. Georgia shot 18.9 percent from the floor (7-of-37) in the opening 20 minutes, compared to the Gators' 54 percent. Florida shot 84.6 percent (11-of-13) in the first 10 minutes.

The Bulldogs started walk-on Corey Butler in the second half. He hit a 3-pointer 28 seconds into the second half and his nine points on 3-of-5 shooting qualified as the highlight of the night.

No Georgia player had more than 10 points until Humphrey hit double digits with fewer than three minutes remaining. Point guard Sundiata Gaines, who had played at least 34 minutes in each of the last six games, played 29 minutes and sat out most of the final 10.

"He was really struggling because he was trying to take on an awful lot by himself, and we were trying to get away from that," Felton said. "His competitive nature was getting the best of him a little bit."

Gaines finished with four points, the same total as Levi Stukes, who did it on 1-of-11 shooting. Georgia was 2-of-18 from 3-point range.

The Bulldogs, who haven't reached the semifinals of the conference tournament since 1997, shot 33.8 percent for the game compared to Florida's 53.5 percent.

"I was proud of our players how we battled the entire game," Felton said, "proud of the fact that we came back and played much better in the second half and scored more efficiently."


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