Bulldogs fall to Florida in home finale
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Bulldogs fall to Florida in home finale

Georgia-Florida
Photo: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS, Ga. – The Georgia Bulldogs dropped a 77-67 decision to Florida on Tuesday in the Bulldogs’ home finale at Stegeman Coliseum. Kario Oquendo led a trio of Bulldogs in double figures with 20 points, his fourth 20-point performance of the season.

Justin Hill added 16 points and four assists, while Braelen Bridges chipped in 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds for Georgia (16-14, 6-11 SEC). Will Richard paced the Gators with 24 points.

“(It was) one of those nights, for us, an odd game,” head coach Mike White said. “Credit to Florida, they came here and did what they needed to do, shot it well and executed, and held on, on the road, despite a pretty good effort, I’d call it, from our guys. It felt like there was a lid on the rim for us. I thought we played really hard, responded to some runs. Late in the first half, that run that they made of course, with the threes – the proficiency from three, I thought, was the difference in the game. We struggled at the rim. We struggled from the foul line. We struggled from three and allowed them to probably play more zone than they have all year, and we struggled to convert. I am proud of our guys’ effort physically. They fought until the end. I thought they really stayed connected. (We) just couldn’t score enough to overcome at the end.”

Florida (15-15, 8-9 SEC) gained the game’s first significant lead by using an 11-0 surge to go up 37-28 with 2:18 left in the first half. The Gators completed the period with a 3-pointer to grab their first double-digit advantage, 43-33, at the intermission.

After extending its lead three times in the opening moments of the second period, Georgia rallied to pull within 52-46 at the 11:30 mark. The Bulldogs got within a single possession on three occasions, lastly 60-57 with 6:50 remaining. Florida answered with back-to-back jumpers and never allowed Georgia closer than five points thereafter.

Florida shot 53.7 percent from the field, including a 36.8 clip from 3-point range. The Gators outscored Georgia 17-9 in points off of turnovers. After shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range in the first half, the Bulldogs were 1-of-15 from beyond the arc in the second stanza.

Hill notched his 300th career assist during the contest. With 16 points, he also upped his career scoring total to 993 points.

The Bulldogs wrapped up their home slate with a 13-4 record at Stegeman this season, equaling the third-most regular-season home victories in the venue’s 60-season history.

Georgia will complete its regular-season schedule on Saturday when the Bulldogs face South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. S.C. That contest will tip at 1:00 p.m. and will be televised nationally on the SEC Network.

POST-GAME NOTES

• Stegeman Stronghold: Georgia’s 13 wins at Stegeman Coliseum during the 2022-23 season is tied for third-most in a season.

• Series Update: Despite the loss, the Bulldogs hold a 63-46 advantage over the Gators in Athens. Florida improves to 122-105 in the overall series record. Interestingly, this is the 217th matchup between the SEC opponents, and the Gators are the most frequent opponent the Bulldogs have faced all-time.

• Serving it Up: With his four assists tonight, Justin Hill eclipsed the 300-assist mark for his career.

• Oquendo on the Run: Kario Oquendo’s 20 points tonight were two shy of tying his season-high. In the last three SEC contests, Oquendo has recorded double-digit points, and the guard now has 19 double-digit point outings this season.

• Bulldogs’ Best: Three Bulldogs scored in double-digits in tonight’s contest (Bridges, Oquendo and Hill). Oquendo led Georgia in scoring with 20 points, and Hill matched his season-high in rebounds with six.

• Bench Boost: The Bulldog bench outscored their opponents’ bench, 28-14, in tonight’s matchup, bringing the season differential to +143 (703-560) in favor of Georgia.

• Opponent Files: The Gators ended the first half on a 17-5 run to take a 10-point lead entering halftime. Florida’s 52 percent field goal percentage bested the Bulldogs’ 29 percent clip to seal the win.

POST-GAME QUOTES

GEORGIA HEAD COACH MIKE WHITE

Opening Statement
“One of those nights, for us, an odd game. Credit to Florida, they came here and did what they needed to do, shot it well and executed, and held on, on the road, despite a pretty good effort, I’d call it, from our guys. It felt like there was a lid on the room for us. I thought we played really hard, responded to
some runs. Late in the first half, that run that they made of course, with the threes – the proficiency from three, I thought, was the difference in the game and obviously, overall shot it very well. We struggled from the rim. We struggled from the foul line. We struggled from three and allowed them to probably play more zone than they have all year, and we struggled to convert. I am proud of our guys’ effort physically. They fought until the end. I thought they really stayed connected. Just couldn’t score enough to overcome at the end.”

On what the team did to close the deficit to two points…
“We got some stops. We got in transition a little bit. We turned them over a little bit. A couple times there, Kario (Oquendo) did a really good job of putting pressure on the rim and drawing fouls. Ultimately, we just couldn’t quite get over that hump. You can’t pinpoint it, whether it was threes or layups or free throws – it was all of it. Credit to the defensive effort by those guys. I’m disappointed for our guys, because I thought we prepared really well and had a great shootaround, a great practice yesterday. I thought we played really hard.”

On if losing to Florida stings more…
“No, not at all. In fact, there’s only a few players in the league that I root for other than the guys I coach and a few of those guys were on that bench. We’re trying to beat whoever the next opponent is, period. There are a lot of people on that sideline that I have strong relationships with of course, and I was happy to see Myreon (Jones) play really well. He had 12 rebounds, wow. I was happy to see Jason (Jitoboh) back out there healthy of course, and I look forward to seeing Colin (Castleton) get back healthy. Same mindset as it was for Missouri and same mindset as it will be at South Carolina. It’s an SEC opponent.”

On what the message is with one regular season game left…
“Another opportunity. You know, I’ve said it tonight and I’ve said it throughout the season. South Carolina, they aren’t feeling sorry for us. You know, South Carolina, they’re trying to close out their season the right way. Just like no one was feeling sorry for Florida coming through here just trying to break back through and get the W. We’ll be doing the same thing. Let’s try to put our best game together. That might be what it takes, you know, to get another one. We’ve had success on the road at Ole Miss. It’s a while ago. We have to play really well. We have to make some shots. Attention to detail defensively has got to be really good, of course. And then, you’ve got the SEC Tournament where anything could happen, but that’s the final chapter. We’ve got one more opportunity before that final chapter.”

JUNIOR GUARD KARIO OQUENDO

On getting back into the game in the second half…
“I think we were in transition, and they couldn’t stop us in transition. We were getting out fast, and I think that was the reason why we came back. That was the motor for our team to keep getting downhill.”

On Florida’s gameplan to close out its win…
“They went zone. I think that slowed us down a little bit, and that was probably a good thing for them. They hit a couple tough shots, and we were contesting them. They just hit a couple tough ones.”

On his 14 second-half points…
“We were getting it out fast, and that’s how I like to play. So, when we’re getting out fast and I’m pitching ahead, we’re playing with energy and getting the crowd into it. I think that was most of it.”

JUNIOR GUARD JUSTIN HILL

On late missed shots in the game…
“When the shot missed and came back somehow, I felt confident to shoot it again and it didn’t go in. I feel like it was still a pretty good shot.”

On the final home game of the season…
“Seeing the fans support us through the thick and thin. Seeing the seniors go off fighting – it’s a good feeling. I wish that we could have got the win for them.”

On the team’s fight to get back in the game…
“It just speaks to our character because some games we would’ve maybe laid down or something like that. But my team kept fighting, but we just couldn’t go all the way tonight.”

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