ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Noah Locke sank back-to-back 3-pointers during Florida's decisive run of 10 unanswered points in the second half and the Gators strengthened their NCAA Tournament hopes by beating Georgia 66-54 on Wednesday night.
Keyontae Johnson had 18 points for Florida (19-11, 11-6 Southeastern Conference), which had to recover after trailing by 13 points early in the game. The Gators had good reason for confidence. They overcame a 22-point deficit in their win over the Bulldogs last month.
Locke had 17 points.
Anthony Edwards had 14 points in what is expected to be his final home game for Georgia. Edwards, who is the nation's top freshman scorer, is expected to be one of the top picks in the NBA draft.
Rayshaun Hammonds had 12 points for Georgia (15-15, 5-12).
Florida rallied after trailing by 22 points to beat Georgia 81-75 on Feb. 5. Less than five minutes into Wednesday night's rematch, the Gators were behind by double figures once again.
Edwards' 3-pointer capped a 13-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 19-6 lead. The long jumper came after Edwards' steal and pass set up a jam by Tyree Crump.
Florida outscored Georgia 22-11 the remainder of the half, cutting the Bulldogs' lead to 30-28 at the break.
Johnson drove through the Georgia defense for a two-handed dunk that cut the lead to 23-20, and he had three more layups in the closing minutes of the half. The sophomore had 13 points in the half.
Two wasted scoring opportunities hurt Florida's chance to take control midway through the second half. An offensive goaltending call against Dontay Bassett and a shot-clock violation on an apparent jumper by Johnson helped open the door for the Bulldogs.
Edwards' power move and one-handed jam cut Florida's lead to 45-44, and a basket by Tye Fagan with 7:53 remaining gave Georgia a 46-45 lead.
Georgia couldn't keep the momentum.
Florida answered with an 10-0 run that included 3-pointers by Locke following traveling turnovers on consecutive possessions by Hammonds and Edwards.
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to 55-50 on a 3-pointer by Sahvir Wheeler but couldn't continue the comeback bid. Locke added another 3-pointer for a 64-52 lead.
With a No. 34 ranking in the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) that will be the new barometer for the selection committee, Florida's spot in the NCAA Tournament appears to be secure. Still, after a loss at Tennessee, the Gators needed the win to avoid creating doubt, especially with a difficult home game remaining against No. 6 Kentucky.
Georgia, rebuilding under second-year coach Tom Crean, honored seniors Jordan Harris, Tyree Crump and Donnell Gresham before their final home game. But this team was built for the future. Edwards is one of nine freshmen on the roster.
Florida closes its regular season at home against No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday.
Georgia closes its regular season at LSU on Saturday.