Florida wastes 21-point lead, rallies to beat Georgia in overtime

Florida recovered after blowing a 21-point second-half lead to get by Georgia 102-98 in overtime in a Southeastern Conference game Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators (14-6, 4-3 SEC) outscored the Bulldogs (14-6, 4-3) 17-13 in the extra period for their third consecutive victory this season and ninth in a row in the series.

Florida sophomore Micah Handlogten posted his second double-double in his last three games and third of the season with career highs in points (23) and rebounds (17). Zyon Pullin added 20 points, Walter Clayton Jr. and Will Richard 18 each, and Alex Condon 10 for the Gators.

Georgia junior RJ Melendez led all scorers with a career-high 35 points, including a long 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left in overtime. Russel Tchewa put up his 11th career double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds). Freshman Blue Cain added 14 points and Justin Hill 11 for the Bulldogs.

Cain scored seven consecutive points to ignite a 10-0 Georgia run that tied the game at 85-85 to send it to overtime as the Bulldogs fought back from a 68-47 deficit with 12:52 left in regulation.

Up by 13 points at halftime, the Gators built their first 21-point advantage, 62-41, less than six minutes of the second half.

The Bulldogs trimmed their deficit nearly in half on a 13-2 run that made it a 70-59 game at the 9:14 mark. They cut the gap to single digits, 81-72, and then Melendez’s 3-pointer and Cain’s free throws got it down to 85-80 with 2:02 remaining.

That’s when Cain took over.

Georgia had stumbled out of the gate, committing four turnovers in the first five minutes and falling behind 24-9 just over nine minutes into the game.

The Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to trim that to 24-17 and were within 26-21 at the 7:30 mark, but the Gators responded with an 11-0 run to go up 37-21 before settling for a 47-34 advantage at the break.

The Gators ended the half with a 26-14 cushion in points in the paint and 13-5 advantage in points off turnovers. Georgia closed that down at game’s end to a 56-54 deficit in paint points and enjoyed a 24-15 advantage in points off turnovers after the Gators finished down in turnovers 19-9.