Once again, the Florida Gators looked as bad as they can, trailing the Georgia Bulldogs by as many as 22. Future NBAer Anthony Edwards looked a class above and a step ahead of every Gator on the floor, stroking six threes in just more than the first 25 minutes of play. The Gators, without Keyontae Johnson and Kerry Blackshear for long stretches of the first half, could not buy a bucket — or get a stop.
It got ugly. Really ugly. It was Georgia 52, Florida 30 at one point early in the second half.
It ended far more appealingly for the Gators: Florida 81, Georgia 75.
Andrew Nembhard’s 25 points tied a career high, Johnson’s 15 came primarily in the second half, and Tre Mann splashed three threes and scored all 11 of his points after halftime, as Florida rallied back from a 20-point deficit to win for the second time in just more than a month.
Edwards was brilliant and then some for the Bulldogs for those first 25 minutes, with his threes helping Georgia dissect the Gators inside and out by stretching the Florida defense to its breaking point and Sahvir Wheeler driving unimpeded to the rim.
And Florida simply couldn’t keep pace with Edwards in the first period on the offensive end, making just 11 shots and just two of 12 threes while also giving up eight turnovers.
The second half was a different story.
Florida switched to a 3-2 zone from what had been mostly man defense in the first half, and collapsed on and smothered the Bulldogs inside as their shots from distance began to clang. Edwards swished that sixth three over a contest with 14:41 to play in the game; Georgia would score just four points over a subsequent more than eight-minute stretch, half of them coming at the line.
And at the same time, the Gators turned things up on offense, with ball movement generating threes for Mann, Johnson, and Blackshear and 10 assists — dwarfing their just one before halftime. That same stretch in which Georgia scored just four points netted an astonishing 31 for the Gators, flipping a 17-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
And that 31-4 run was part of a larger 39-7 one.
The game wasn’t fully over when that run ended, as Georgia finally responded with a 7-0 burst after falling behind by double digits. But when the teams traded blows over the final 4:14 of play, Georgia had to do so largely at the line — the Dawgs got just one field goal, a three off a scramble, in that final stretch — while Florida made four field goals, and got a Nembhard steal of a midcourt pass leading to a runout dunk that put the game away.
For Florida, this was another resurrection, and not entirely unlike their first one against Alabama: The visitor in Gainesville was so hot for so long that the leather might have burned off the ball, and then Florida answered with its own heat and intensity, ultimately winning out in inspiring fashion.
Hope will spring eternal that this team — clearly good enough to play phenomenal basketball for significant stretches, and clearly young enough to not have that form available to it at all times — can figure out how to make those stretches longer, or perhaps cover the entire game.
But appreciating that these Gators would give Lazarus a run for his money when it comes to refusing to die feels like a good way to view them, too.