Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/25/12
ATHENS, Ga. For openers (literally), Florida trailed by two points before Saturday's game even started. That's because Gators backup swingman Casey Prather dunked a basketball during pre-game warm-ups and was assessed an administrative technical foul the UF coaching staff did not particularly agree with. Gerald Robinson made both free throws, then the Gators and Bulldogs lined up for the opening tip. For the visitors, it was all downhill from there. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope paced five Georgia players into double-figures with 18 points and the Bulldogs belied their poor statistical numbers on the offensive end with a sharp-shooting 76-62 upset of the listless and stone-cold Gators before a scattered crowd of 10,265 at Stegeman Coliseum. The Bulldogs (13-15, 4-10) came into the game next-to-last in the Southeastern Conference standings and but last in the league in scoring (61 points per game) as well as field-goal percentage (39.2). So while the Gators (22-7, 10-4), one of the SEC's better shooting team, made just 36.7 percent for the game -- including a woeful 5-for-23 from 3-point range (21.7 percent) -- the Dawgs hit 53.8 percent from the floor, rained in more threes than the visitors (7) and posted their third-highest point total of the season. "Our defense was just terrible," UF freshman swingman Bradley Beal said. It was on par with the team's energy level, according to head coach Billy Donovan, who once again found himself lecturing his players -- as he did at halftime of Tuesday's home game against Auburn, which the Gators rallied to win -- about playing with the kind purpose and enthusiasm of past UF champions, such as, say, Al Horford, who with his arm in a sling, happened to have a front-row seat Saturday for this eyesore. "I'm really concerned if we'll ever play with passion again," Donovan said. "I'm being totally honest." Though still alone in second place in the SEC standings, the Gators have not clinched a bye in the first round of the league's postseason tournament, with their next two outings against third-place Vanderbilt (20-8) Tuesday night and next weekend against No. 1-ranked Kentucky (28-1) in the regular-season finale at the O'Connell Center. "This time of year, we've got to come out with a lot better energy than we did," senior point guard Erving Walker said in echoing his coach's talking points. "And that's all on us." How ho-hum were they? Florida never led in the game, falling behind by double-digits just 11 minutes into the game and getting no closer than three the rest of the way. That was late in the first half after Beal made a couple free throws to make it 28-25, but Georgia answered with eight straight points, including 3-pointers from Caldwell-Pope and Dustin Ware, and led 36-27 at the break. The margin ballooned to as high as 16 in the second half when a 13-4 run by the Gators made it a five-point game, at 67-62, with just under two minutes to go. On Georgia's ensuing possession, the clock shot had ticked below five seconds when a UF player tipped the ball to midcourt. As players from both teams gave chase, Ware grabbed it, trying to balance on the halfcourt line, when Beal ran into him and was called for a foul. "I knew as soon as I made contact with him it was a dumb play," said Beal, who had game-highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds. "At the same time, it was a hustle play." And like the rest, the Bulldogs got that one, too. "We came out with a lot of intensity and our guys were really determined to play well today," Georgia 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." And which Florida has been able to do, it seems, only in pockets this season. It's tough to overcome a dreadful night shooting the ball if the other team is playing harder. "It's a trend that's been happening all year," Beal said. "At some time, we have to grow up and move past it." Walker scored 14 points, but had just one assist and was kept on the bench for a significant stretch in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Center Patric Young finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, his second double-digit rebounding effort in SEC play this season, but UF's interior defense was poor most of the game. That didn't fall completely on Young, though. Donovan wasn't pleased with what he got (or didn't get from) forward Erik Murphy: two points, two rebounds, 0-for-5 from distance and a less than impressive performance guarding in the post, with the Dawgs getting 38 points inside. "We had a lot of defensive breakdowns," said Donovan, whose team blasted the Bulldogs 70-48 in Gainesville on Jan. 10. "There was no fatigue factor." That was a reference to the fact seven UF players were in the training room on their day off Wednesday, and that the coaching staff -- still piecing together possible rotations following the season-ending loss of forward Will Yeguete (broken foot) -- put the Gators through a relatively light workout Thursday. Donovan said his team actually practiced harder Friday than it played in the game Saturday. It was as if they were behind even before the game started. Oh, that's right. They were. "I wish that was our main problem. I wish I was dealing with and having to call the league office," Donovan said of the pre-game dunk. "But I got more stuff to deal with than that."
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