GAINESVILLE -- No. 7 Florida jumped to a commanding advantage, took a 20-point lead at the half, and cruised to its school record 25th straight home win 72-50 against Georgia on Tuesday night.
The previous record of 24 was set by the by UF’s over two years by the 2006 and 2007 national championship teams.
“I’m really, really proud of our guys, that’s great,’’ Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “The guys that won that many in a row obviously did some really special things. These guys haven’t won national championships but they’ve done some special things as well and I’m proud of them.
“I think any time you do something for the first time in school history it’s always special.’’
It was the Bulldogs (8-7 overall, 2-1 in SEC play) 12th consecutive loss at the O’Connell Center. The Gators trailed 6-4 to open the contest before scoring 13 straight to take over the game.
“We lost our poise,’’ said Georgia forward Marcus Thornton, who had 11 points and 7 rebounds. “We got too relaxed and made some immature plays and once you get behind the eight-ball in a place like Florida, they will crush you quickly. The game was decided right there in the first half.’’
Florida (14-2, 3-0) allowed just four field goals by Georgia in the final 15-plus minutes of the first half. The Bulldogs trailed 36-16 at the break. Georgia’s previous low for the opening half of a game was 21 vs. Gardner-Webb on Dec. 19.
Will Yeguete matched his season-high with 10 points in the first half and finished with 12 and six rebounds.
“It’s something special,’’ said Yeguete of the record, “especially to the seniors who have been here for a while.’’
The Gators came into the game ranked second in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 60.3 points an outing.
With such a huge lead, Florida looked a little sloppy at the outset of the second half but Mike Frazier and the rest of the outside shooters heated up to finish the game strong.
“Coach told me to just keep shooting,’’ said Frazier, just 1-of-5 behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes. “That helps when you have the confidence of your coaches and teammates.’’
Actually, Donovan yelled at him during a time out when UGA was mounting a mini-comeback after seemingly being blown out early.
“He sparked me,’’ Frazier said of Donovan. “He said sometimes he believes he has more confidence than we do in ourselves. Once he said that I tried to go out there and play with a level of confidence he felt for us. And it worked.’’
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to 45-31 midway through the final 20 minutes but Frazier, who finished with a career-high 21 hit a couple of threes to push the lead back to 55-32 with 6:58 left. Dorian Finney-Smith had 14 points and five boards. Patric Young added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Gators, who had a season-high 11 3-pointers -- five by Frazier.
It was the sophomore’s third game this season with five buckets behind the arc.
“He can change a game,’’ Finney-Smith said of Frazier. “He’s the one guy (on the team) who can completely change the outcome.’’
Florida dominated in the first half, racing to a 17-6 lead thanks largely to a trio of 3-pointers, Georgia’s Cameron Forte had a dunk to cut the deficit to single digits with 8:53 to go. But the Gators’ 13-2 tear made it a 20-point game. UF had five steals in the opening 20 minutes, dominated the boards, and after shooting just under 20 percent in the opening half of the last three games behind the arc (6 of 31) made four of its first nine attempts on Tuesday night.
Five different Gators scored at least four points each in the balanced first half attack. Florida’s press threw the Bulldogs completely out of whack.
“Florida played really well, with great defense, and that bothered us,’’ said Georgia guard Charles Mann, who was the SEC player of the week after scoring 40 points in two games last week but was held to eight on Tuesday. “Florida is a very good team, very well coached and they played hard, but it was a winnable game for us.’’
Florida started Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin in the same backcourt for the first time this season. Injuries and Wilbekin’s season-opening suspension prevented it before Tuesday night. The Gators snapped Arkansas’s 23-game home court winning streak with a 84-82 victory last Saturday it gave Florida the SEC’s longest streak at home.
“When you play like boys in a man’s game, you’ve got to be tougher than we were tonight, there’s no way around it,’’ Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said. “We’ve got to play better on the road in environments like this against teams like this.’’