ATHENS — Considering how Florida usually dominates Georgia, Chandler Parsons took no satisfaction in narrowly losing to the Bulldogs.
“We’re confident we’re going to win every game we play,” Parsons said. “We were down by 15 and came back, so I feel like we can win any game. Georgia played well and had really strong defense down low.”
Trey Thompkins scored 20 points, and Albert Jackson ended Florida’s comeback attempt by knocking a last-second pass out of bounds to help Georgia beat the Gators 78-76 on Saturday.
Parsons finished with 29 points for Florida, which had won three straight overall and had taken 12 of its last 13 meetings with the Bulldogs.
“Give Georgia a lot of credit,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “They played a great game. If it wasn’t for two missed free throws the other night, I think they would’ve won at Vanderbilt. Their season has been a lot like that.”
Georgia (13-14, 5-9 Southeastern Conference) improved to 12-3 at home this season with a fourth straight victory at Stegeman Coliseum, but the Bulldogs nearly blew a 15-point lead Dustin Ware gave them on a 3-pointer with 12:55 remaining.
Kenny Boynton, who scored 22 points, pulled Florida (20-9, 9-5) within two points three times in the final 5:42, but his fast break layup at the 1:39 mark ended the scoring.
After Georgia’s shot-clock violation gave Florida the game’s final possession with 13.3 seconds left, Jackson jumped in front of Dan Werner near the right sideline to block a pass intended for Vernon Macklin in the lane.
The ball bounced off Jackson’s arms and into the crowd behind Werner. Florida fared no better with one-tenth of a second remaining when Werner unsuccessfully launched a 3-point attempt that sailed over the rim.
Florida was coming off its first win over Tennessee in three years, a 13-point victory Tuesday that lifted the Gators’ hopes of returning to the NCAA tournament since the school won consecutive national titles in 2006-07.
But Florida, which never led after Boynton’s 3-pointer made it 17-15 midway through the first half, ends the regular season next week against No. 16 Vanderbilt at home and No. 2 Kentucky on the road.
“This is a tough road loss to come within two points and lose,” Boynton said. “We just have to work hard at getting back some momentum.”
Georgia was coming off an overtime loss at Vanderbilt on Thursday, but had 13 points from Jeremy Price, 12 from Travis Leslie and 10 from Ware to hold off the Gators.
“I told the team that it’s important to be tough enough to come back and pick yourself up when you’re down,” first-year Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said. “As hard as we competed at Vanderbilt, we didn’t get the job done, and it is our responsibility to play a little bit better.”
Thompkins’ last basket came with 3:30 remaining following a timeout. Only 3 seconds were left on the shot clock when Thompkins, the SEC’s second-leading scorer, caught the inbound pass and turned to hit a 16-footer from the left side that gave the Bulldogs a 76-71 lead.
Price’s basket with 2:45 left put Georgia ahead 78-74. A 6-foot-8, 264-pound reserve junior forward, Price teamed with Jackson (6-11, 265) to occasionally spell starting center Chris Barnes and take up space in the lane to help the Bulldogs disrupt Florida’s customary passing lanes through the paint.
With Price finishing 6-for-6 from the field with five rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes, Georgia got another boost from its bench as guards Ebuka Anyaorah and Demario Mayfield combined for 14 points.
“The starters get exhausted, and they really get beat up here at the end of the season,” Anyaorah said. “Coach just relied on us and told us that we needed to step defensively, offensively and just be smarter when we go in there.”