February 14, 2009

Halleluiah; UGA over UF 88-86

Jubilant players rushed toward the student section to celebrate, fans stomped and screamed at the top of their lungs, while wide-eyed security personnel scrambled to keep the celebration from spilling onto the court.

Georgia 88, Florida 86. What more needs to be said?

"It's amazing, just amazing," freshman Dustin Ware exclaimed. "We've just been fighting and fighting all along and I was getting frustrated every day. But when we came out I knew that we were going to have a good one. Everybody was bouncing around, excited and just ready to play ball like we know we can really play. We left it all on the floor."

Talk about a sense of relief.

Georgia's season of disaster has been well-documented. From Dennis Felton's firing, the 11-game losing streak snapped with Saturday's two-point win, so much has gone wrong for the 2008-2009 Bulldogs that the for many the season couldn't end fast enough.

At least for one day, there was reason to celebrate, especially for seniors Terrance Woodbury and Corey Butler who beat Florida for the first time in their respective careers.

"It felt so good to beat the Florida Gators, as obnoxious as they are sometime," said Butler, who didn't miss a shot the entire game, going 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. "Georgia fans know it and I'm going to say it: As obnoxious as they are sometimes it felt soooo good to beat these guys, on your court and in front of your fans. I've been waiting for this for four years."

If Butler was on fire, Woodbury was nuclear.

The 6-foot-7 forward hit all seven of his first seven shots, five coming from 3-point range for 20 of his career-high 32 points.

"They kept going in, man," Woodbury said. "One would go in, cool, we're winning, another would go in, cool, we're winning. It was just unreal, just unreal."

Butler laughed that even Georgia football coach Mark Richt deserved an assist for the win.

"He talked to the team Friday and just GATA," Butler said. "I think we all know what that means, but that's just the sort of mindset we went out there with and I obviously it helped."

Georgia, which led by as many as 12 points (59-47) in the second half, held the Gators without a bucket from the 5:56 mark until just 46 seconds remained in the game.

Walter Hodge missed a jumper with 0.4 seconds left which would have tied the game, but didn't setting off a wild celebration that briefly spilled into the student section of the stands.

"It's great. It's great for these kids. They go to school, class every day and getting looked at and told that they're not going to amount to much but today they came out and were very aggressive," interim coach Pete Herrmann said. "I thought everyone did wonderful and Wood was just out of sight. The first half was as good a shooting exhibition as I've ever seen. He was just on fire and he had to be because they're so capable of scoring from all kind of points."

Along with snapping the 11-game losing streak for the Bulldogs, the victory broke a run of 11 consecutive wins by Florida (19-6, 6-4) over Georgia (10-15, 1-9).

The Bulldogs shot 57.4 percent for the game, including 14-of-26 from 3-point range. Georgia also hit 12 of its 15 free throws and committed only 13 turnovers after combining for 49 its previous two games.

Ware and fellow freshman Trey Thompkins added 11 points for the Bulldogs. Hodge led a contingent of five Florida players in double-figures with 22 points.

"When you look at what happened to their team and how they are last in the league in shooting percentage, when shots start going in the confidence grows in ways which unexplainable," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They really had a lot of confidence today shooting the ball and were competitive, tough and more energized than we were."

Florida blew out Georgia 83-57 in their last meeting, which ironically was the last game for Felton.

"I came in to them on Thursday and said I watched the film on Florida and here's what we're going to do," Herrmann said. "I said we're going to play man-to-man, we're gong to be physical and we're going to play them as tough as we can be. A lot of heads nodded. Let's do that."

For once, Georgia did.

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