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Florida 72, Georgia 60: Gators win fifth straight with stellar second half

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Florida keeps rolling.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Georgia Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team blew a 16-point lead to the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half of their trip to Athens.

They got all of it back in the second half, and won by a 72-60 count anyway.

Chris Chiozza paced the Gators with 15 points off the bench, and Kasey Hill had 12 points and five assists, continuing a strong run of play from Florida’s backcourt over a five-game streak of double-digit wins. They, especially, helped the Gators outscore the Dawgs 37-27 in the second half, pulling away late to make what seemed like a possible restaging of the overtime game the teams played in Gainesville for the first 25 minutes of play.

But while Florida’s 30-14 lead in the first half was obliterated by a 19-3 run from the Bulldogs, Georgia failed to put together another significant run in the second half, and never even tied the game after halftime.

Smothering Florida defense had plenty to do with that performance, as usual. Florida allowed Georgia to shoot just 33.3 percent from both the floor and the arc, and pilfered 12 steals in forcing 16 turnovers. An additional seven blocks — four from Kevarrius Hayes — helped wall off Georgia’s basket, and leave the Bulldogs powerless to match Florida’s slow march back to a double-digit advantage.

It was slow in part because of meager contributions from the usual suspects: KeVaughn Allen and Devin Robinson scored just 13 points combined, and Hayes and John Egbunu again struggled to score inside, going 4-for-9 and scoring 12 points combined. But Hill, Chiozza, and Canyon Barry combined for 37 points to buoy Florida, which led by as many as 17 in the second half before the Bulldogs shaved down the advantage in garbage time.

With the win, Florida improves to 19-5 overall and 10-2 in SEC play — and could own a share of the lead in the SEC if South Carolina falls to Alabama.