GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)Riley Kugel threw down a pair of dunks in the final half-minute to put an exclamation point on Florida’s 82-75 win over Georgia in a hard-fought Southeastern Conference battle on Saturday afternoon.
The Gators’ seventh consecutive win in the series spoiled Bulldogs coach Mike White’s return to Gainesville. White spent the previous seven seasons at Florida before leaving amid frustration on both sides.
”Different, unique, glad it’s behind me,” White said. ”Would have been happier, obviously, if it was behind me with a win. … It was great to see a lot of people today, a lot of loved ones.”
Kyle Lofton, a graduate transfer from St. Bonaventure, scored 18 points to lead the Gators’ offensive effort and Colin Castleton blocked seven shots and grabbed eight rebounds to anchor Florida’s defensive effort while putting up 12 points and making five assists.
Georgia built a 23-10 lead midway through the first half before Florida countered to take a 39-34 lead at intermission.
The Bulldogs took the lead briefly in the second half after Mardrez McBride drilled a 3 and Kario Oquendo scored at the basket for a 44-43 advantage with 16:44 left.
After Myreon Jones put the Gators in front with a layup off a feed from Castleton, Terry Roberts scored at the basket for a 46-45 lead. But Florida responded with back-to-back layups and Lofton turned in a heady three-point play on an in-bounds play underneath the Florida basket when he bounced the ball off a defender’s back, recovered it and laid it in drawing the foul.
Alex Fudge hit from deep to push the Florida lead to 13 with 9:37 to play, but the Bulldogs battled back. Jabri Abdur-Rahim hit three 3s in the second half and Georgia made 7 3s from deep in the half. Oquendo’s reduced Georgia’s deficit 78-75, but Lofton made two foul shots, then found Kugel for his second dunk with six seconds left to seal it.
Will Richard finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for Florida (8-7, 1-2) and reserves Jones and Reeves contributed 13 and 12 points respectively.
Roberts hit 4 of 8 from distance and led Georgia (11-4, 1-1) with 25 points. Abdur-Rahim was 4 of 6 from distance and added 12 points off the bench and Braelen Bridges had 10 points.
Florida travels to face LSU Tuesday. Georgia hosts Mississippi State.
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