Walter Clayton Jr. scores 22, Florida beats Georgia 85-80 to advance to SEC quarters

Fri, Mar 15, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Walter Clayton Jr. scores 22, Florida beats Georgia 85-80 to advance to SEC quarters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Walter Clayton Jr. scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, Tyrese Samuel added 17 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and No. 6 seed Florida beat Georgia 85-80 Thursday night in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

The Gators (22-10) play No. 19 and third-seeded Alabama in the quarterfinals on Friday. Florida and the Crimson Tide each won at home to split the regular season series with Alabama slipping by 98-93 in overtime on Feb. 21 before Florida scored its most points in a regulation game in a 105-87 win over the Tide on March 5.

Noah Thomasson and Silas Demary Jr. scored 14 points apiece to lead the Bulldogs. Justin Hill and RJ Melendez added 13 points apiece for No. 11 seed Georgia (16-15), which beat 14th-seeded Missouri 64-59 in the first round.

Demary made a layup and a 3-pointer 27 seconds apart, Russel Tchewa converted a three-point play and Demary added another layup to cap a 10-2 run and make it 68-all with 5:12 to play. Clayton answered with a 3-pointer just 14 seconds later and Florida led the rest of the way.

Hill scored five consecutive points to cut Georgia's deficit to a point with 2:46 remaining but Clayton made a layup and-1 to make it 77-73 with 1:57 to go and Riley Kugel made 6-of-6 free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory.

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Thomasson hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a seven-point lead with 16:29 left in the game. Zion Pullin scored in the lane 9 seconds later and Samuel converted a three-point play that gave Florida its first lead of the second half before Kugel capped a 14-3 run with a layup that made it 53-49 with 11 minutes to go. Thomasson answered with a 3 to cut the deficit to a point but Alex Condon was fouled as he made a layup and, moments later, Bulldogs coach Mike White was called for a technical foul. Condon hit the and-1 free throw before Clayton made both technical foul shots with 10:26 left. Clayton hit a 3-pointer about 2 minutes later stretch Florida's lead to 66-58 with 8 minutes to go.

Will Richard made a fast-break layup that gave Florida a nine-point lead midway through the first half but the Gators made just two of their next 12 field-goal attempts. Melendez and RJ Sunahara answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a one-possession game just 40 seconds later and spark a 21-5 run that gave Georgia a 33-26 lead when Melendez hit another 3 to cap the spurt with 3:27 until halftime.

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