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Gators Advance in SEC Tournament With 85-80 Win Over Georgia Bulldogs

Florida's five-point win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday sets up a date with Alabama in the third round of the SEC Tournament.

The Gators completed the season sweep of the Bulldogs in Nashville on Thursday night.

Despite shooting just 56.1% from the free throw line, Gators guard Walter Clayton Jr.'s 22 points and a team-wide +16 advantage on the glass lifted Florida to an 85-80 win over Georgia in the second round of the 2023-24 SEC Tournament.

It's the third time the Gators downed the Dawgs this year, moving UF head coach Todd Golden to 5-0 against UGA in his two seasons at the helm for the Gainesville-based program.

Florida took firm control of the contest from the opening tip, surging behind a hot start from junior wing Will Richard. Connecting twice from downtown early to provide the Gators with a comfortable advantage, Richard supported the unit's efficient output prior to the first media timeout.

He finished the half leading all scorers with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 3-of-4 from three. He added four rebounds, one assist and two steals to his resume to substantially elevate UF during the first half.

Behind his excellence, the Gators' lead grew to as much as nine.

Georgia flipped the script in the final 10 minutes of the first half, though, forcing Florida to shoot just 29% from the floor for the remainder of the period — while adding just 13 points to its halftime total. The effort was kickstarted by head coach Mike White's decision to move into a zone defensively, a look the Gators' otherwise prolific offense has notably struggled against this season.

UF also failed to supplement the stagnant offense from the free-throw line. It shot just 30.8% from the line through 20 minutes, lowlighted by veteran forward Tyrese Samuel's troubling 1-of-8 mark from the charity stripe.

As a result, the Dawgs turned their nine-point deficit into a three-point lead, 37-34, at the break.

Georgia maintained its success in the second half, continuing to stifle the Gators' attack, allowing its advantage to swell to as much as seven with 13:20 remaining. 

Florida's poor form seemed to worsen when star guard Zyon Pullin picked up his fourth foul of the contest with more than 15 minutes remaining. However, despite his absence, UF reeled off a 12-2 run to retake the lead over Georgia for the first time since the 5:49 mark of the first half.

Samuel, despite his lackluster production from the charity stripe, put his stamp on the contest with 14 second-half points. His 17 total points complemented the year-long leading scorer, Clayton, in elevating UF to edge out the Dawgs in the end.

He notably made two crucial threes in the second half to lead five double-digit scorers en route to Florida's five-point win. 

Riley Kugel went 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch to seal the deal.

The Gators also closed the gap on the boards from the first half, in which the Bulldogs held a 23-20 rebounding advantage to prevail 52-36 on the glass in the game.

Florida will retake the hardwood inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Friday against the three-seed Alabama Crimson Tide. 

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