Fast Second Half Start Propels Gators

Three days earlier at LSU, Alabama scored the first 12 points of the second half, but it wasn't good enough as Bama lost to the Tigers. Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum, Florida scored the first 16 points of the second half. That was good enough as the Gators downed the Crimson Tide, 61-52.

Alabama and Florida were tied at halftime, 26-26, but the Gators scored 16 straight points as Bama missed its first 10 shots after intermission. The Gators hit seven of their first eight to start the second half, included two unguarded treys. That segment took only five minutes.

In an, "Aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" type question, it was suggested to Anthony Grant that other than those five minutes that his team had done a pretty good job against the favored Gators. After a pause, Grant noted that, "You have to play for 40 minutes."

Alabama's great second half start at LSU last Saturday was too little too late because the Tide had trailed by 31-15 at intermission.

That Alabama was tied 26-26 with Florida Tuesday night was surprising from any viewpoint. It could have been a lot more or it could have been a lot less. Bama shot 58.8 per cent, but owing to 11 first half turnovers and allowing Florida seven offensive rebounds, the Tide couldn't take advantage of the Gators' 30.8 per cent shooting.

Alabama's woes were many for the game. The Tide made only 8-28 second half shots, 38.6 per cent, and finished the game 18-45 for 40 per cent. Alabama had 18 turnovers. Florida scored 24 points off the Tide miscues. The Gators had 13 turnovers, but Alabama managed only eight points off them.

It didn't help that Alabama managed to make only 50 per cent of its 24 free throws.

Grant said the Tide "didn't respond well when adversity hit. It's a learning experience. Some of these lessons are tough. The players don't like it. I don't like it as a coach. But it's what we have to go through in order to grow.

"Florida took us out of our comfort zone. We didn't respond.

"We have to go to work. We have to get better as a team."

Florida opened the second half playing a 2-3 zone. Gators Coach Billy Donovan said the move was primarily to protect inside player Patric Young, who had two fouls in the first half, but the move stymied the Crimson Tide offense.

Andrew Steele returned from a one-game suspension and was the only Alabama player in double figures, scoring 11 points. Levi Randolph, a guard who has had to play inside owing to on-going suspensions of Bama's top rebounders, JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, had another good game on the boards with nine rebounds.

For Rodney Cooper, who earned a start after his 28 points on 10-19 shooting at LSU, it was a rebound of a different sort as he was only 2-9 from the field and had four turnovers.

Florida was led by its big men, Patric Young with 19 points and Erik Murphy (who was 4-8 on three-pointers) with 14. Highly regarded freshman Bradley Beal also had 14, but on only 4-12 shooting.

The loss dropped Alabama to 16-9 overall and 5-6 in Southeastern Conference play. The Gators improved to 20-6 (the 14th consecutive year Florida has won 20 games) and 8-3 in the conference.

Alabama continues at home hosting Tennessee at 12:30 p.m. CST Saturday.

TIDE NOTES: Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford, who had been suspended for the LSU game, not only returned to the team, as previously announced, but also started. Moreover, Releford had a team-high 33 minutes of playing time and Steele was second with 31.

Rodney Cooper rejoined the starting lineup. They were joined by Nick Jacobs and Levi Randolph.

Following the game Coach Anthony Grant said he had not made a decision regarding when or if two other suspended players might return. Tony Mitchell has been out two games and JaMychal Green one.

The loss was Alabama's second at home in SEC play and third of the year. Bama did not lose a home game last year. Over the past two seasons Bama is now 28-3 overall and 12-2 in SEC games in Coleman Coliseum.

Florida came into the game with the SEC's most potent offense, averaging 78.8 points per game. Alabama's defense held the Gators to only 61, but that was still plenty for Florida to win with. Florida is only the t=10th Bama opponent to score 60 or more points. The Gators were held to a season-low six three-point shots.

Alabama's 52 points tied for the season low this year, and the Tide's 18 turnovers was a season high.

Florida has now won four straight against Alabama. The Tide leads the all-time series by 78-54.

Florida became just the third team this year to outscore Alabama in the paint. The Gators had a 26-22 margin on points in the lane.

Alabama did have the advantage in bench scoring. Bama's subs – Charles Hankerson with nine points, Trevor Lacey with six, and Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye with four each – had 23 points. Florida's top two subs were unable to play and the Gators got zero points from three back-up players.

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