GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- During warmups, Florida players wore
T-shirts that read "We all we got." Right now, it looks like
Matt Walsh made a game-tying 3-pointer, then hit seven free
throws down the stretch Wednesday night to lift Florida to its
fourth straight win, 63-55 over Georgia.
Walsh led the Gators (18-8, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) with 22
points, a sweet answer to a troubling night in Athens two weeks ago
for both himself and his team. Georgia fans heckled Walsh
relentlessly during Florida's 76-62 loss, and the night got even
worse when Georgia fans spilled onto the court to harass him some
more after the game.
Things seemed to deteriorate further the next day when swingman
Christian Drejer suddenly quit to play pro ball in Spain. Turns
out, the Gators haven't lost since, and the T-shirts, the mantra
and the us-against-the-world attitude have become a big part of
"When you lose a teammate out of nowhere, it makes you
appreciate the guys you have around you," Walsh said. "That night
in Athens, we started saying it. It's our new team motto. We really
appreciate each other now."
Suddenly, a team on the bubble is essentially a shoo-in for its
sixth straight NCAA trip. The Gators are guaranteed a winning
conference record, and they maintained a one-game lead for second
place in the SEC East; the second-place team receives a first-round
bye in next week's SEC tournament.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (14-12, 6-9) lost their second straight
after three consecutive wins put them in NCAA contention.
Georgia, on a roller-coaster ride of a season, closed its SEC
road schedule at 1-7. The only win: a 65-57 victory at Kentucky,
part of a season sweep of the ninth-ranked Wildcats. The Bulldogs
close the regular season Saturday at home against Vanderbilt.
"We thought we'd be in it if we could win both games this
week," Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton said. "Now, that's out of the
question. If we can beat Vanderbilt, then we'll put ourselves in
Led by 17 points from Chris Daniels, Georgia briefly looked like
it could beat the Gators again. Rashad Wright hit two 3-pointers
and Damien Wilkins (12 points) dunked twice to lead a 10-2 run that
gave Georgia a 52-48 lead with 5 minutes left.
Florida cut the deficit to three, then Walsh took over. His
3-pointer with 4:09 left tied the game at 52. On the next
possession, he made two free throws to put the Gators up for good.
Walsh went 7-for-8 from the line down the stretch.
Georgia had chances through it all, but didn't make a field goal
over the last 3:07. It was pretty ugly. Wilkins bricked one off the
backboard that led to a shot clock violation. Daniels threw the
ball away. Daniels came back with another ugly shot -- a 3-pointer
that bounced hard off the glass without touching rim. Levi Stukes
also missed a 3 during the cold spell.
"We had some tremendous looks, and we just couldn't convert the
shots," Felton said.
Walsh, meanwhile, kept hitting free throws, and wound up with
three more points than Anthony Roberson, who opened the game with a
four-point play and more than avenged a 1-for-11 shooting night the
last time he faced Georgia.
"He's a competitor," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I
knew in the first half, he was going to go completely off. I knew
they did a great job on him the first time, but I also knew he was
going to come out completely focused and ready to compete."
Donovan said the entire team has been more focused since Drejer
"Christian is a very good player," he said. "But for whatever
reason, we didn't play as well" with him.