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Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2003 1:27 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(25) Georgia 82, (3) Florida 81
FLORIDA GATORS
Florida Gators
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GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Georgia Bulldogs
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ATHENS, Georgia (Ticker) -- What could possibly be coach Jim Harrick's last home game at Georgia turned out to be a memorable one.

Jarvis Hayes' turnaround jumper with 15 seconds left lifted the 25th-ranked Bulldogs to an 82-81 victory over No. 3 Florida in a Southeastern Conference thriller.

Georgia (18-8, 9-6 SEC East) continues to be dogged by former Bulldog Tony Cole, who has alleged illegal payments and academic fraud from Harrick and his son, who has been suspended from the coaching staff. Before the game, the embattled Harrick sat down for an interview with colorful 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, made a basket with 23 seconds left to give Florida (24-5, 12-3) its final lead at 81-80.

The Bulldogs went to the 6-7 Hayes, who was isolated on the 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 and failed to get off a shot as fans stormed the court at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Gators' loss gave Kentucky the SEC East division title.

It was the second thriller between the teams this season. Florida pulled out a 66-63 victory on January 11 on freshman Anthony Roberson's 3-pointer at the buzzer.

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."

Wright and fellow starter Chris Daniels were pulled from practice to be questioned by NCAA investigators. It was all part of a difficult week that included Sunday's 74-66 loss to Kentucky.

"I'm so proud of them because it's been such an unbelievable time for us," Harrick said. "I think the kids are resilient."

Williams got hot down the stretch and scored five straight points to give Georgia a 75-74 advantage with 2:03 remaining. Florida's David Lee split a pair from the line before Bonner made two foul shots for a 77-75 advantage with 1:18 left to play.

Hayes was fouled and tied it with two free throws with 64 seconds to go, but Lee rebounded a miss by Bonner and put it in for a 79-77 lead 17 seconds later. Williams wasted no time, coming right back with a 3-pointer to make it 80-79 with 40 seconds left.

"I think the last four possessions, each team scored," Harrick said. "It was a terrific basketball game."

Lee scored 18 points and Walsh added 13 for Florida, which shot 50 percent (29-of-58) and led by as many as 10 points in the first half. The Gators shot 33 percent (7-of-21) from beyond the arc. Roberson, who made seven in the first meeting, was 3-of-6.

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

Harrick has had his problems in the past at coaching stops at UCLA and Rhode Island. He was fired in 1997 for lying about a dinner receipt just two seasons after leading the Bruins to a national title. At Rhode Island, there was a sexual harrassment suit against Harrick that is being investigated and there were rumors surrounding the recruitment of Lamar Odom.


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