Three Takeaways From Florida's 81-75 Comeback Win Over Georgia
Point guard Andrew Nembhard had the look.
Nobody was guarding the sophomore point guard from beyond the arc, so he pulled up. After all, it was Florida's chance to take the lead down just 57-56, after being down 22 just a few minutes before. So the point guard threw up the triple with nothing but air in his face.
Count it. Gators lead.
That bucket completed the comeback. It sealed the rally against rival Georgia in the O'Connell Center on Wednesday night. It truly was a tale of two halves for the Gators and Bulldogs and the strength of the latter half gave UF (14-8, 6-3 SEC) the win, 81-75.
It was not dissimilar from Florida's comeback against Alabama in January, when coach Mike White's group came back from a 16-point deficit. However, this deficit came mostly from one player, Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, who finished the game with 32 and had 18 of those in the first half.
He seemed unstoppable for the first 30 minutes of the game, but drastically slowed down in the final 10. And just when he cooled off, Nembhard and forward Keyontae Johnson heated up for Florida to spark the comeback. The point guard had 25 points for the game while Johnson had 15.
The comeback meant a ton to the Gators, and it taught the rest of us a ton as well. Here are three things we now know:
Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson grew up before our eyes
The two sophomores did not have good first halves. At the end of the first 20 minutes, the two had a combined eight points.
By the end of the game?
They had 40.
Above anything else, that was my biggest takeaway from this game. The comeback was largely started by Johnson making a few threes and aggressively drawing fouls inside. He was the main reason the UGA got into foul trouble early, as UF was already in the bonus with about 13 minutes to still be played.
"All the freshmen, they look up to us," Johnson said. "If they see us down, then they're going to play down as well, so we just try to come out with energy in the second half."
The Canadian finished the game leading Florida in scoring with 25. Down the stretch, he seemingly hit bucket after bucket to dig into Georgia's lead and will his squad to victory. He is the main reason that one of the worst first halves of this year did not turn into yet another crushing loss.
"We definitely take it personally, we definitely want to lead the team," Nembhard said. "I think Keyontae started it off and I kind of took it over from there."
Scottie Lewis made the plays that aren't on the stat sheet
On Wednesday, the sexy recruit from this year's class for the Gators made all of the un-sexy plays. Lewis did not have a big game statistically. He only finished with four points on 1-5 shooting, but he was the main man guarding Edwards, and he did an excellent job down the stretch despite struggling early.
"I just want to win, I don't care about anything else," Lewis said. "I'll take two shots, I'll score four points. It doesn't matter."
With every passing game, Lewis needs to do this kind of dirty work for Florida. He is unquestionably the most athletic hustle guy in the country, and he has the capability to explode on any given night. But the nights where he doesn't contribute anything must be night's of the past.
For the Gators to finish this season well, it will take efforts like tonight from Lewis, sprinkled in with a few impressive scoring nights.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. must be smarter
The graduate transfer has multiple games now where he has committed head-scratching fouls early.
That simply can't happen.
Blackshear had two early in this one, with one being late contact on a three-point shooter after the ball had already left his hands.
Too much goes through him offensively for White to have to take him out for multiple minutes early in the game. A huge reason Georgia got out to that enormous lead in the first place was because of Blackshear's absence.
Against a better team, that 22-point lead becomes a 30-point lead and the game is over.