Georgia’s comeback falls short, drops 102-98 overtime decision at Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Despite a career-best 35 points from RJ Melendez, the Georgia men’s basketball team lost in overtime against Florida, 102-98, on Saturday afternoon inside Exectech Arena at the Stephen O’Connell Center.
The Bulldogs (14-6, 4-3 SEC) fell behind by as many as 21 points in the second half but still forced overtime, ultimately coming just short of the win. Melendez’s 35 points led all scorers while also contributing a personal best five steals. Russel Tchewa recorded a double-double for the second consecutive game with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Blue Cain posted 14 points and a pair of 3-pointers while Justin Hill had 11 points with nine assists, marking the most assists of his Bulldog career. Georgia outscored Florida (14-6, 4-3 SEC) in bench points by a 62-15 margin, marking the Bulldogs’ most in the statistic since putting up 64 on Nov. 18, 2006.
The Bulldogs fell behind by double digits early but began cutting into the deficit after back-to-back 3-pointers from Melendez. Georgia went on a 10-2 run, but Florida would respond with 10 straight points of its own to hold a 47-34 headed to the locker room. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 21 in the second half but got it down to nine, 81-72, after a layup from Tchewa with just over four minutes to go.
Melendez’s fifth 3-pointer of the afternoon and a pair of free throws from Cain trimmed Florida’s lead to just five points with two minutes remaining. Cain then hit a long ball and put in a layup, tying the game for the first time of the day at 85 points with 49 seconds to go. After forcing overtime, Georgia was unable to string stops together and trailed by five with under a minute to go. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to two points with six and a half seconds to go after making back-to-back shots from beyond the arc and a stolen inbounds pass. Georgia couldn’t get another steal, though, as Florida inbounded the ball, sealing the game after two made free throws.
Georgia will return to Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to take on Alabama at 6:30 p.m., with the contest set to be televised on the SEC Network. The Bulldogs beat the Crimson Tide in their last meeting in Athens on Jan. 15, 2022, by an 82-79 score.
Five Fast Facts
• RJ Melendez set career highs in points (35), field goals made (13), field goal attempts (19), 3-point field goal makes (six), 3-point attempts (10) and steals (five). His 35 points are the most under Coach White at Georgia.
• Georgia made at least 10 3-pointers for the seventh time this year, marking the program’s most in a season since 2006-07.
• With his 12th career double-double, Russel Tchewa becomes the first Georgia player to record back-to-back double-doubles since Sahvir Wheeler did so in the final two games of the 2020-21 season.
• The Bulldogs started the game shooting 13-of-36 in the first 23 minutes but closed with a field goal percentage of 67 percent, making 26 of their final 39 attempts.
• RJ Melendez’s 13 buckets are the most made field goals by a Bulldog since Yante Maten had 14 against Belmont on March 16, 2016.
Head Coach Mike White: “I think these comebacks start with our guys individually. Who they are, in terms of their character and especially their basketball character, these guys just continue to fight. We’ve had a lot of hard practices with this team, long practices, and consecutive days of practice. Early on in the mid-fall, we thought as a staff we would compete very consistently. When you’re out of character there for a few minutes, when you’re getting beat to lose balls and offensive rebounds, and you find yourself in a big hole, to me that’s uncharacteristic of who this group is. We get back in character when a couple of good things happen for you. It was a heck of a fight by our guys. I like the way it moved a little bit too – obviously, we sold out to a lot of dribble-drive stuff where we had some possessions that the ball stuck a little bit, but to have 18 assists on just nine turnovers, to finish some of those shot attempts with some extra passes, I thought we looked for each other as well. I thought we were very unselfish today.”
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