Georgia 82, Florida 81

March 5, 2003 at 7:58 AM
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ATHENS, Ga., March 4 (UPI) -- Jarvis Hayes hit a turnaround jumper with 15 seconds left Tuesday night to lift No. 25 Georgia to an 82-81 upset of third-ranked Florida in a Southeastern Conference thriller.

Georgia (18-8, 9-6 SEC East) continues to be dogged by the allegations of former Bulldog Tony Cole claiming illegal payments and academic fraud from Georgia Coach Jim Harrick and his son, Jim Harrick Jr., who has been suspended from the coaching staff.

Before the game, the embattled Harrick sat down for an interview with ESPN commentator Dick Vitale and denied the allegations.

The game featured five lead changes in the final three minutes. Matt Bonner, who scored 24 points, had a basket with 23 seconds left to give Florida (24-5, 12-3) its final lead at 81-80.

On the game-winner, the Bulldogs went to the 6-7 Hayes, who was isolated on 6-3 Justin Hamilton. Hayes spun to his right and nailed the jumper to give the Bulldogs the lead.

"The last play was our back-door play," Harrick said. "We cleared out and had Jarvis 1-on-1. I knew he was going to be guarded by Justin Hamilton."

Florida had one last chance, but freshman Matt Walsh slipped while being guarded by Rashad Wright. Walsh failed to get off a shot as the fans stormed the court.

Hayes finished with 21 points and Ezra Williams added 20 for Georgia, which shot just 6-of-23 from beyond the arc. Williams scored 15 points in the second half, and Steve Thomas netted 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

"Ezra certainly came back and shot the ball well," Harrick said. "We got a big game from Thomas and Rashad Wright, Damien Wilkins played well. I'm so proud of them because it's been such an unbelievable time for us. I think the kids are resilient."

In Harrick's interview with Vitale, the coach was defiant in responding to the allegations. He chided an ESPN reporter for "stalking" him in a parking lot, and said Hayes "lives in the dorm with no money, no clothes."

"This is a hard loss on the road, especially a one-point loss," said Florida Coach Billy Donovan. "It was a great college basketball game. It was a game where we couldn't stop them and they couldn't stop us. We had no answer for Ezra Williams. He shot the ball great tonight, you have to give him credit."

Bonner led all scorers with 24 points, 16 of which came in the second half. Lee hit 7-of-9 from the floor to finish with 18 points, and Walsh added 13.

The Gators' loss gave No. 2 Kentucky the SEC East Division title.

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