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Florida 77, Georgia 67: Gators finish sweep of Dawgs behind Will Richard

Will Richard’s career-high helped Florida put down Georgia.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Kentucky Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Florida started slow at Georgia — also, the sun rose in the east this morning — and spent much of the first have alternately making and allowing runs.

But when Will Richard heated up, he staked Florida to a lead, and the Gators were game enough to defend it in what became a 77-67 road win that gives them a sweep of Georgia — and Mike White — and a chance to still finish at or above .500.

Richard posted 24 points, a new collegiate best, and rained in five threes, four of them in a 15-point first half. The last of those came at the buzzer and through an uncalled foul, and staked Florida to a 43-33 lead at half, capping a 20-7 stretch to finish the first period.

That run — ended by Richard scoring nine straight Florida points, and fueled by 12 from the Belmont transfer — was one of two significant combos from the Gators in the first half, with an 11-2 fusillade after giving up yet another 5-0 lead out of the gate preventing Georgia from seizing control of the game.

And in the second half, Florida did the job of fending off a feisty bunch of masons in black, as Georgia cut the Gators lead to as few as two points with just more than seven minutes to play ... before a Richard three built it back to five, and another Richard jumper answering a runaway train layup by Kario Oquendo to build a two-possession edge Florida would never let ebb from that point forward.

Richard’s Batman act was the show of the night, but two of his fellow guards flashed, with Riley Kugel falling just short of a third straight 20-point night — settling for 19, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals was fine — and Myreon Jones posting a 14-point, 12-rebound double-double.

Despite cooling off from deep after Richard’s first half, Florida shot 54 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three — while holding Georgia to 33 percent from the floor and an unsightly 18 percent from three. And even without Colin Castleton, Florida got some rim protection: Jason Jitoboh, in a shock, had four blocks, a career best.

With the win, Florida now sits at 15-15 overall and 8-9 in SEC play, giving it a great chance to finish the season over .500 overall and at that mark in conference by defeating league cellar-dweller LSU.

Should the Gators get the versions of Richard, Kugel, and Jones that they got tonight — and just a little help elsewhere — they should be able to get that win.