Georgia ready for next test vs. Florida

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Georgia survived one test on its no-margin-for-error gauntlet toward resurrecting its NCAA Tournament hopes.

Next stop for the defense-challenged Bulldogs: Gainesville, Fla., to face the Southeastern Conference rival Florida Gators.

Georgia (13-8, 6-8 SEC) rallied on its home court for an 80-70 win over No. 20 Missouri on Tuesday, the Bulldogs' third straight game against a ranked opponent. The other two were losses, their only defeats in their last six games.

Coach Tom Crean is looking for a carryover effect from the win.

"Hopefully it manifests itself into something they carry with them throughout the season," he said. "When you stick with something and keep persevering, good things can happen in a game."

While the Gators (10-6, 6-5) aren't in the Top 25, they have been on the fringe all season, and they broke into the poll for a week earlier this month before a loss and a string of pandemic-related postponements stalled their momentum.

Florida is also Georgia's fourth straight opponent who is likely headed for an NCAA Tournament berth. LSU, the foe on Tuesday, will make it five.

"The challenge is making sure that you focus solely on that opponent and what the game plan is for that team," Crean said. "You can't go backwards or forwards with your mindset. You have to show them what will be needed to win."

Scoring has not been a problem. Georgia has three players averaging in double figures and three more between 9.2 and 9.9 points per game. K.D. Johnson leads the way at 13.7 points, Sahvir Wheeler is adding 13.5 points and seven assists, and Toumani Camara is right behind at 12.7 points and 7.6 rebounds.

The Gators defeated the Bulldogs 92-84 on Jan. 23, and Crean is looking for improvement in a few areas, especially at the line, where the Bulldogs made only 13 of 24.

"We scored 84 and missed almost half of our free throws. We also need to get out and run better," he said.

Georgia's opponents, meanwhile, are averaging 77.4 points per game and posting a field-goal percentage of 45.6. The Bulldogs won by holding Missouri to 70 and 42.6, respectively.

The Gators have four active players in double-figures scoring and a fifth at 9.2 points per game. They are averaging 76.7 points per game, looming as another handful for the Bulldogs.

Tre Mann leads the way at 14.1 points and 3.6 assists per game, followed by Colin Castleton at 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Noah Locke is averaging 11.1 points.

Florida is also coming off a game against a ranked opponent, a 75-64 loss at No. 24 Arkansas on Tuesday. The Gators trailed by 15 a few minutes into the second half but rallied to take a one-point lead with 4:40 left. They were outscored 14-2 the rest of the way, however.

They also were coming off a 12-day layoff because three games were postponed by COVID-19 issues with their opponents or themselves, raising the question about second-half stamina.

"Not going there. The pause had nothing to do with our poise," Gators coach Mike White said following the game, in which his team missed its last six shots and committed three late turnovers.

Asked again about it on Friday, White reiterated the result was about "a lack of defensive and offensive execution," but he also emphasized some positives.

"In our guys' defense, I think that they played extremely hard and showed a lot of resilience to overcome the deficit that we overcame, especially shooting the ball the way that we did to take a one-point lead with about four minutes to go on the road, having not played a game in a long time," he said.

--Field Level Media