Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points and Georgia snapped No. 12 Florida’s three-game winning streak with a 76-62 victory Saturday.
ATHENS — Gerald Robinson Jr. knows that Georgia has a slim chance of earning a postseason bid.
But that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs aren’t going to try.
“We’re still pushing forward,” Robinson said. “At no point have we thought that the season is over. We’ve never given up.”
Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 points, Robinson added 15 and Georgia snapped No. 12 Florida’s three-game winning streak with a 76-62 victory Saturday.
The Gators, who never led in the game, trailed by double digits most of the second half. They whittled the lead to five points on Kenny Boynton’s 3-pointer with 1:53 remaining.
But Georgia (13-15, 4-10 Southeastern Conference) scored the next six points as Dustin Ware and Donte’ Williams both made two free throws and Caldwell-Pope followed with a breakaway dunk to make it 73-62.
“We came out with a lot of intensity, and our guys were really determined to play well today,” Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said. “We were able to dig deep and tap into that extra energy, which we haven’t been able to do much this season. But we did that today.”
Florida (22-7, 10-4) is second, one game ahead of Vanderbilt in the SEC. Bradley Beal scored 19 points for the Gators, who close the regular season next week at Vanderbilt and at home against No. 1 Kentucky
Florida had won 10 of 12 overall and had taken of 15 of 17 against Georgia, including three straight.
If Georgia’s energy seemed high, Gators coach Billy Donovan was disappointed that his team looked so flat.
“I really am concerned if we will ever play with any passion again,” Donovan said. “I’m being totally honest here because if you can’t get excited to play on the road against a bordering state, getting a chance to go 11-3 in the league and do that, but you come out and you play like that?
“Sometimes to coach with these guys, I feel like I’m grabbing these guys by the back of their shirts and I’m pulling them up a hill all the time.”
Florida held the Bulldogs to 48 points in a 22-point victory in Gainesville on Jan. 10, but Georgia got offensive production from several positions, including 12 points from Nemanja Djurisic and 11 each from Williams and Ware.
With Georgia leading 63-53, the Gators had three chances to cut the lead to single digits, but Boynton missed a layup, Erving Walker’s 3-point attempt never touched the rim and Patric Young committed a turnover before Robinson’s free throws made it 65-53 with 2:51 remaining.
The Gators missed 13 of their first 16 shots from the field before Boynton’s 3 cut the lead to 19-11 midway through the first half. Beal’s layup brought Florida within three at the 2:48 mark, but Georgia went on a 10-2 run to make it 36-25 in the final minute of the half.
“They played a lot harder than we did, especially on the defensive end,” said Beal, a freshman guard. “It wasn’t great at all. We gave up a lot of 3s, they were shooting a high percentage at halftime and then in the second half they got even hotter and started going on runs.”
Walker scored 14 points and Boynton added 11 for Florida, which was assessed a technical foul for dunking in pregame warmups and trailed 2-0 on the two free throws by Robinson before tipoff.
Caldwell-Pope combined with Robinson to score 21 of Georgia’s 36 first-half points.
Georgia began the game ranked last in the SEC in scoring, but finished 15 points above its average. Florida was 15 points under its SEC-leading average.
The Gators, who played their first game without top reserve Will Yeguette after the sophomore forward broke his left foot Tuesday against Auburn, were just 5 of 23 on 3-point attempts. They began the game leading the nation with an average of 10.3 3-pointers per game.
Georgia consistently ran solid screens to get open looks. For a team that’s last in the SEC in field goal percentage, the Bulldogs felt encouraged to shoot a season-high 53.8 percent against a league opponent.
“This is the best feeling ever,” Djurisic said. “We expected to win because we came determined to play hard. We needed this win badly, and it’s great to get our confidence back like this.”