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Chiozza guides No. 17 Florida into tie for SEC lead

Chiozza guides No. 17 Florida into tie for SEC lead
Published On: Tue, Feb 07
Dec 19, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida A&M Rattlers head coach Clemon Johnson talks with guard Jamie Adams (3) during the first half against the South Florida Bulls at USF Sun Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Florida is the hottest team in the Southeastern Conference heading the final stretch of league play.

Junior guard Chris Chiozza scored 15 points, and the Gators moved into a first-place tie in the SEC with a 72-60 win over Georgia on Tuesday at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga.

Chiozza hit a clinching 3-pointer late in the second half and recorded four of Florida's 12 steals. Senior guard Kasey Hill added 12 points and five assists for the Gators (19-5, 9-2 SEC), who won their fifth straight and caught South Carolina in the standings after the Gamecocks lost at home to Alabama in four overtimes. South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida are each 9-2 in the SEC.

"We've got a happy locker room right now," Florida coach Mike White said, "and it's fun to be a part of."

While the Gators are surging, Georgia is fading fast. The Bulldogs dropped their fourth straight SEC game, sandwiched around a nonconference win over Texas.

Senior point guard J.J. Frazier scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and junior forward Yante Maten added 19 points for Georgia (13-11, 4-7 SEC).

The Bulldogs, who were picked to contend in the SEC, find themselves near the bottom of the conference standings, and coach Mark Fox is drawing criticism.

"We're not playing well, and that really rests totally with me," Fox said. "We're not playing well on offense. We started the game poorly, we battled back in it, and then in the second half, we didn't finish any plays, and we turned the basketball over. Turnovers have been an issue with this team, and I have not solved it.

"Give Florida credit, they're a good defensive team, but we have to have more than two guys show up and finish plays. Tonight, we didn't do that."

The Gators won their previous four games by an average margin of 32 points, including Saturday's emphatic 88-66 victory over No. 15 Kentucky.

Florida looked as if it were on the verge of another blowout win early in the first half Tuesday.

Devin Robinson and Justin Leon hit back-to-back 3-pointers that gave the Gators a 29-14 lead with 9:07 left before halftime. But Georgia stormed back with a 15-0 run, with Frazier scoring seven points during the Bulldogs' spurt.

Florida went more than six minutes without a field goal, and Georgia capitalized.

The Bulldogs closed out the first half with a 19-5 run but still trailed 35-33 at intermission.

Maten had 10 points in the first half but had to leave the game late after sustaining a cut on his face. He returned in the second half and was challenged by Florida's interior defense. Maten finished with five turnovers.

Maten and Frazier were the only Bulldogs to reach double figures, and Georgia's bench was outscored 31-14 by Florida's reserves.

"I don't think we were ready to really compete as a unit," Frazier said. "As a team, we weren't ready to compete, which is unacceptable."

After a first half full of runs by each team, Florida opened the second with a 13-5 burst, capped by a Canyon Barry 3-pointer that put the Gators up 48-38.

"It wasn't anything special that I said or our staff said," White said. "We challenged them, of course, to turn it on. At halftime, we watched some of the things we could have done a little better. We just regained that focus and cleared their minds and got back to what is most important to give ourselves a chance to guard these guys, which is pretty difficult."

Chiozza, who came off the bench, knocked down a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 16 with two minutes to play, and Georgia was unable to challenge down the stretch.

"He just created disruption and then offensively he's playing with a lot of confidence," White said of Chiozza. "He's making good decisions, Very, very pleased with the way he's playing, and he's going to continue to earn more and more minutes. But he's about winning."

Barry finished with 11 points, including a 4-of-4 performance from the foul line that increased his streak to 35 consecutive made free throws.

NOTES: Florida backup PG Chris Chiozza was named SEC Player of the Week after recording the school's fourth triple-double in a victory over Missouri on Thursday. Chiozza had 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against the Tigers. ... Georgia's Yante Maten is one of 10 finalists from the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award given to the nation's top center. ... Georgia sophomore F Derek Ogbeide finished with two points but grabbed 10 rebounds. ... Florida improved to 4-0 against Georgia under coach Mike White. ... Florida leads the all-time series 113-100. ... Florida returns home to host Texas A&M on Saturday. ... Georgia travels to Tennessee on Saturday.

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Name Pos
DeVon Walker G
John Egbunu C
Dorian Finney-Smith F
Alex Murphy F
Devin Robinson F
Chris Chiozza G
Schuyler Rimmer F
Justin Leon F
Kasey Hill G
Lexx Edwards G
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