ATHENS, Ga. (AP)—The Florida Gators love to go on the road. They relish the chance to snuff out any hopes of an upset, to silence all those heckling fans.
Corey Brewer scored 18 points, Al Horford added 17 and the top-ranked Gators extended their winning streak to 15 games Wednesday night with a 71-61 victory over Georgia, which led early but never really had a chance.
Florida (22-2, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) took control in the first half and pulled away in the second. It wasn’t the Gators’ best performance, but it was easily good enough to extend their best start ever in the SEC.
Four of those wins have come on the road. Only one has been closer than 10 points.
“It’s almost like a circus atmosphere when we come to play,” Joakim Noah said. “We want to come strong and mess up their party.”
Georgia (13-9, 5-5) lost its third in a row after building an 18-13 lead midway through the first half. The defending national champions responded with nine straight points and led the rest of the way, limiting the Bulldogs to 34 percent (20-of-59) from the field.
“When you see fans no longer standing up when their team scores, you know you’ve put them away,” Brewer said. “You know they’re going away without a win. I love it on the road. Everybody wants to knock you off. It feels great when you win.”
Brewer hit 6-of-8 shots, including both attempts from 3-point range. He also doled out four assists, helping the Gators shoot 52 percent (25-of-48) from the field.
Horford handled things on the inside. He made 7-of-13 shots and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
Even though Georgia contained Noah, who had 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, the Gators had far too many weapons.
“Unselfish wins ballgames,” Brewer said. “Every night, one of us is going to be on his game. We’ve just got to find that person. As long as we work together and find the open man, we’ll be all right.”
Florida swept its season series with the Bulldogs. The Gators won 67-51 in Gainesville a month ago, dominating over the final 20 minutes after Georgia led at halftime.
“You can never have a dull moment against them,” Bulldogs center Takais Brown said. “They played real hard tonight. The better team won.”
Brown, Georgia’s leading scorer at 14.4 points a game, was totally worn down by the Gators, who had him huffing and puffing at the end with constant double-teaming. He finished with 5 points on 1-of-8 shooting.
“They doubled me every time I touched it,” Brown said, shaking his head. “It’s kind of frustrating, but I kind of have mixed feelings about the situation. If I’m getting doubled by the national champions, who have some of the best players in the SEC, then I must be doing something right.”
Georgia’s Sundiata Gaines, who averaged 15.2 points over the previous five games, managed just 2 against the Gators. Mike Mercer led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
“They had those little spurts, and we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Gaines said. “We let it get too large.”
The Gators were up 36-30 at halftime and began to ease away when Gaines committed two straight turnovers.
Noah converted a three-point play after being whacked in the chest by Dave Bliss, who left the Florida star sprawled on the court but couldn’t keep him from scoring off a lob. Taurean Green drove for an uncontested layup that gave the Gators their first double-figure lead, 43-32, then Noah got loose from Steve Newman and dropped in an easy one from underneath, forcing the Bulldogs to call a timeout.
It didn’t help. Georgia went through a stretch of nearly 6 minutes without scoring, allowing Florida to push the lead as high as 17 points.
The Bulldogs didn’t want to get into a running game with Florida. But when their half-court offense bogged down, they often were forced to take desperation shots with the 35-second clock ticking away.
Georgia made only 4-of-22 from 3-point range and is just 17-of-72 from beyond the arc during its losing streak. Levi Stukes went 1-for-6 and Billy Humphrey was 1-of-5.
Florida’s Lee Humphrey was perfect from long range, making all three of his treys and finishing with 11 points. The last of those, with 2 1/2 minutes to go, finished off the Bulldogs.
In his last four games against Georgia, Humphrey is 14-of-24 from outside the arc.
“We didn’t particularly play one of our best games,” Noah said. “Even though we’re No. 1 in the country, we’ve still got room to improve in February. That’s what it’s all about.”