Some Big Reasons For Florida's Win
With 6-8, 228-pound senior JaMychal Green and 6-6, 220-pound jumping jack junior Tony Mitchell still missing in action due to indefinite suspensions handed down by Coach Anthony Grant, the Alabama basketball team had no one who could guard 6-9, 247-pound sophomore Patric Young, who scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half.
There was another reason, and a "big" one, for the Florida Gators' 61-52 road win. Though 6-10, 230-pound junior Erik Murphy did much of his damage from the perimeter, the Crimson Tide had no one to stop him from adding 14 points and draining 4-8 behind the arc.
Alabama went with three big men on the night – freshman starter Nick Jacobs and much-inexperienced subs Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye.
Grant said, "I thought Moussa did a really good job of defending the ball screens, but Murphy poses a problem at 6-foot-10 with the ‘pick-and-pops.' I don't know if it was a Moussa, a Nick or a Carl issue, as much as it was that Florida is very good.
"It's a learning experience, and some of these lessons are tough lessons. We've got some guys getting extended opportunities for time on the floor, with a chance to step up. What was difficult was, we got put in a lot of ball screen situations. Patric (Young) was the beneficiary of those, and he took advantage of his opportunities."
Gators coach Billy Donovan said there was a method behind the match-up madness. Donovan said, "Alabama was playing without their two leading scorers (Green and Mitchell). We were just trying to put them in a bind, but when we moved Erik (Murphy) to the five (center) spot, it put their front court players in a tough spot, and caused them a little bit of difficulty.
"Patrick (Young) was able to establish deep low post position, and was able to score.
"They were playing with four guards, and I think for Patrick and Erik that was tough (defensively)."
Donovan said he wasn't surprised to get a big game out of Young. "I told (Young) that today was a by-product of how he prepared for the last two practices. He did a good job with dealing with fatigue and playing (22) minutes with a sore ankle. He was more effective because he was doing a great job of rolling to the basket and establishing position."
Starting Alabama center Nick Jacobs scored two points and logged just seven minutes, battling both foul trouble and an injury suffered in practice.
"Nick took a shot in the mouth earlier this week, and actually had dental surgery Monday," Grant said.
To be sure, 7-1, 275-pound sophomore Engstrom (who scored a career-high four points all in the first half) gave his best effort in the 15 minutes he played. The same could be said of 7-foot, 280-pound sophomore Gueye, who contributed four points and four boards in 15 minutes.
To be truthful, neither Engstrom, who hails from Sweden, or Gueye, a Senegal native, could match up with Young and Murphy from either of two standpoints: experience and athleticism.
Junior guard Andrew Steele didn't necessarily see it that way. Steele, who matched a career-high in scoring and led Bama with 11 points, said, "(Those match-ups were) kind of tough, but I don't think it was necessarily a size issue. We let our offensive struggles affect the way we played defense, and I think that was the difference in the game.
"For us, things could have gone better. This is a tough loss."
Grant added, "We've got some young guys right now that need to learn that, in terms of the consistency of what it takes to compete at this level, and be the type of players we are capable of being."
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