Once Again, Tide Close, But Short

Alabama was in the zone Thursday night. Not in THAT zone, where the Crimson Tide might upset the sixth-ranked team in the nation. But Bama's zone defense did force Florida to live in great part by the three-point shot. Unfortunately for Bama, the Gators made a large number of those treys.

As is so often the case, Alabama lost in what appeared to be a close one. Florida continued undefeated at 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference with a 68-62 win over the Crimson Tide in Coleman Coliseum. Bama is now 8-10 on the season and 2-3 in SEC games. The Gators improved to 16-2.

Although the final score was just an eight-point margin, Alabama never had the lead in the game and was tied only once, at 2-2.

With the Crimson Tide playing zone defense all but the last frantic minutes when it had to press, Florida attempted 28 three-point shots. Although the Gators made only 10 of them (35.7 per cent), that was still much better than Bama making 2-12 (16.7 per cent) – one of those in the final seconds.

Alabama continues at home and in SEC play Saturday hosting LSU at 7 p.m. CST. The game will be televised by ESPN2.

Alabama was just a little short against the highly-ranked Gators. Florida shot 61 field goals and made 23 (37.7 per cent) and the Tide made 22-57 (38.6 per cent). Florida had only a 42-39 advantage in rebounding, and that advantage was in offensive boards, Florida getting 18, Bama 15. The Tide committed only seven turnovers, while Florida had nine.

Alabama outscored Florida in the paint by 28-22, in points off turnovers 11-7, and in fast break points 6-4. The Gators had an 11-7 advantage in second chance points.

Alabama made 16-22 free throws (72.7 per cent) and Florida 12-18 (66.7 per cent).

Although Trevor Releford was good on only 5-12 field goal attempts (1-4 on treys) he led Bama in scoring with 14 points. Nick Jacobs had 12, Levi Randolph 11, and Shannon Hale 10. Algie Key led the Tide in rebounding with seven. Florida was led by Michael Frazier with 18 points (every shot he took from the field was a trey, 5-13), Casey Prather with 14, and Scottie Wilbekin (only 2-8 from the field, 2-7 of them treys) with 10.

In the first half, Alabama was keeping it close, and had it to within three points – 29-26 -- with under 30 seconds to play and Florida bringing the ball up court. With just over four seconds to go, the Gators' Frazier launched a three-point shot. It was good. And he had been fouled by Tide freshman Shannon Hale. Frazier completed the four-point play and so Bama went to intermission in not such good shape, trailing by seven points, 33-26.

With 3:45 to play, Florida still had only that seven point lead, 60-53. But the Tide couldn't get anything going in those final minutes. It was 1:07 before Randolph make a couple of free throws for Bama's next points.

TIDE NOTES: Sophomore guard Retin Obasohan was held out of Thursday night's game after suffering a strained hip flexor in practice. It was not known how long he would be out.

Junior Algie Key took Obasohan's place in the starting lineup. He was joined by center Carl Engstrom, forward Shannon Hale, and guards Trevor Releford and Rodney Cooper.

The loss ended Alabama's run of 14 consecutive victories against SEC competition in Coleman Coliseum. The last conference team to beat Bama in Tuscaloosa had been Florida, on Feb. 14 last year.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant, who served as an assistant to Florida Coach Billy Donovan, for 10 years in Gainesville is now 0-6 against his mentor.

The win was the eighth in a row by Florida over Alabama. It was the Gators' fourth straight win in Coleman Coliseum.

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