February 25, 2012

Stegeman shocker

Yes, there have been more downs than up for Georgia's basketball team, rebuilding after last season's trip to the NCAAs.

But at least for one afternoon, there was nothing but smiles in the team locker room after the Bulldogs stunned 11th-ranked Florida 76-62 before a Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,265.

"It's the best feeling ever. It was crazy, it was great. But we expected it because we came determined to play and we played hard throughout the full 40 minutes," said freshman Nemanja Djurisic, one of five Georgia players in double-figures. "We needed this one to bring the confidence back. We're very happy."

Djurisic wasn't the only Bulldog feeling on top of the world.

With the Bulldogs leading by nine and less than a minute to go, freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Popep.db[ brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and a slam, punctuating the victory which helped Georgia improve to 13-15 overall, 4-10 n the SEC.

"That got us a little hyped up to finish the game," said Caldwell-Pope. "It just felt good out there tonight."

Caldwell-Pope led the Bulldogs with 18 points, followed by [db]Gerald Robinson Jr. with 15, Djurisic's 12 with Donte Williams and Dustin Ware adding 11 each.

Williams also blocked a career-high six shots.

"Donte was terrific. He had six blocked shots, 11 points, and several (four) rebounds. He's just a winner and he keeps moving forward," head coach Mark Fox said. "His defense was a real big key to the game tonight and I thought that Gerald did a nice job of finding him some easy baskets which helped us get some front line scoring too."

Georgia obviously did a lot of things well.

The Bulldogs shot 52.9 percent (27-of-51), and although they were out-rebounded by the Gators (22-7, 10-4) 36-30, fared much better from the free-throw line, converting nine of their final 10 to finish out the win.

"We didn't change one thing (from previous games)," Fox said. "It was just a matter of the ball going in and finishing plays. It had nothing to do with coaching, just finishing plays. It was the same shots we had the last couple of days."

Gator coach Billy Donovan was thoroughly impressed.

"I told Mark after the game that I really appreciate the job he's done because when you're 3-10 you can get beaten down and lose your right, but (Georgia) fights all the time - not just tonight - they do it all the time," Donovan said. "I have a lot of respect for their team and their kids, and I was happy for them. As a coach, just for the pureness of the game, I was happy for their kids because that's the way you're supposed to play the game."

Florida - which trailed the entire contest - struggled mightily from the field, converting just 5-of-23 3-point attempts. The Gators came into the game as the SEC's top team in 3-point team, hitting on 40 percent of their attempts.

"They played harder than us," Florida's Erving Walker said. "They played a great game. They should get all the credit in the world."

Georgia led by as many as 16 points.

"What I liked about today going into the game was the approach of our team. So much of having success is under your own control," Fox said. "I think that our team was disappointed in how they opened the game (at LSU) the other night and we've got kids who have a pretty good conscience, and the last couple of days I thought we were very good."

The game got off to an unusual start.

Florida was hit with was described as an "administrative technical foul" for dunking a ball during warm-ups.

The call sent Robinson to the line, where he hit both free throws before the game officially began.

"I've seen that, about 10 times to be honest, through recruiting, and I've seen it once or twice, maybe one other time (in a game)," said Fox. "But I've seen it before."

The Bulldogs' tweaked their lineup against the Gators, starting Caldwell-Pope at the 2-guard instead of Ware with Robinson running the point.

"We did adjust our lineup. I thought that was fairly effective for us, a little bit defensively. We had a great day today, it made a difference in the game but we had a lot of guys play well," Fox said. "We played determined today. We've talked a lot about the right way to play, playing with determination. Late in the year sometimes it's hard to find that extra energy, but today we were able to dig in and find it."

Georgia led 36-27 at the half.

"That was a great win for us," Fox said. "We beat a terrific basketball team, a basketball program we have great respect for and when you can beat them, it's something to be proud of."

Georgia returns to action Thursday at top-ranked Kentucky before closing out the regular season at home next Saturday against South Carolina.