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Florida vs. Georgia, Game Thread: Can the Gators steal one in Stegeman?

The Gators need a win badly.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For Florida, this trip to Georgia (9 p.m., ESPN or WatchESPN) on a Tuesday night feels like more than a matchup between teams tied for fourth in the SEC. It's a chance for the Gators to find winning form on the road, after almost a month without a win away from the O'Connell Center, and a chance to rebound from a dispiriting loss to Alabama that made turned NCAA Tournament safety into relative danger.

Or, you know, it's a chance to let a season continue to slip away. It could be that, too.

Fortunately for Florida, Georgia is a team that it knows it can beat — the 77-63 win in the Gators' SEC opener, which wasn't as close as that score suggests, is testament to that. Whether Florida can go 9-for-22 from three and hold the Dawgs to 2-for-12 sniping is another matter, especially after the Gators' brownout against Alabama. But with KeVaughn Allen scoring 18 point and John Egbunu having 12 points and boards against the relatively undersized Bulldogs, there's a formula for Florida to go to in Stegeman Coliseum.

One thing the Gators will hope to avoid, though, is an early hole like the one they were buried in during their last trip to Athens. Georgia opened the lone 2015 meeting between the two squads on a 12-0 run, and while Florida managed to slice that lead all the way back to two points immediately after halftime, the Gators also never led in that game, a 73-61 Dawgs triumph.

If they can do that, hold lightning bug and excellent shooter J.J. Frazier in check, and keep Charles Mann from taking over the game by parading to the line, the Gators do actually have a strong shot at pulling off a road upset. Both defenses are statistically similar on a per-possession basis, but Florida's streaky offense is still leaps and bounds better than Georgia's, which has three offensive showings worse than the 0.84 points per possession the Gators mustered against Alabama on the season. Two of those games were 34-point losses to Kentucky and Texas A&M.

An unlikely shootout would still favor the Gators, and they should have the offensive punch to eke out a few more points than the Bulldogs do in a slower, grinding affair.

It doesn't have to be ugly for Florida on this night. But it really ought to be a win if the Gators want to keep their NCAA Tournament chances totally within their own grasp.