The Crimson Tide of Coach Mark Gottfried has won six games this year scoring fewer than the 78 points Bama put up in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday. Alabama's second straight loss dropped the Tide to 11-6 overall and 3-3 in SEC play. Bama will be back in action in Tuscaloosa Saturday, hosting LSU in a game that begins at 6 p.m. CST with regional television coverage on Fox Sports South. LSU defeated Bama 70-66 in the SEC season-opener in Baton Rouge on January 10.
To its credit, Alabama fought back from what looked to be a rout to make a game of it in the second half. The 10-point margin of victory was not indicative of how close the game was down the stretch. The Gators outscored Alabama 8-2 in the final three minutes. Florida, which was ranked first in the nation earlier this season, played very well, at least as well as a top 20 team, which is where the Gators are ranked.
Alabama fell behind by as many 12 points in the first half, got back to within four points with three minutes to play, then had a collapse (including a shot clock violation while attempting to take the last shot of the half) and trailed by 49-40 at intermission. Things started very poorly in the second half with the Gators scoring the first four points, but Alabama made an excellent run and had the lead at 72-71 with under seven minutes to play.
Indeed, Alabama will be able to look at a number of plays where the Tide let this one get away. Bama missed two dunks, gave up two points on a curious technical foul call against Gottfried, committed a charge that took away a key basket, and missed a rebound on a free throw that enabled the Gators to get another chance and score two foul shots, among many other mistakes in the final critical minutes.
But Bama's biggest problem was the Tide's failure to guard Florida shooters. The Gators hit seven more field goals than Alabama as Florida shot 56.4 per cent from the field (31-55), including 11-25 (44 per cent) three-point shots. Alabama hit 24 of 47 field goals (a very good 51 per cent), including 10-22 treys (45.5 per cent). Bama had a slight advantage at the free throw line, 20-29 to Florida's 15-23. Alabama had 28 rebounds, one more than Florida.
Alabama had only 11 turnovers, but Florida had only seven. Six of Bama's turnovers were by Chuck Davis, who had seven turnovers in Saturday's loss at Mississippi. Davis did have a double-double, a bit of an odd one. He had 10 rebounds and scored 15 points, the points coming on three-of-three shooting from the field and nine-of-15 foul shots.
Alabama continues to play without starting wing guard Earnest Shelton, out indefinitely with a sprained knee. But two others who were questionable with knee injuries were able to play. In fact, Kennedy Winston had an excellent offensive performance. After scoring only four points in the first half, Winston finished with 25 points. He was particularly effective outside, hitting five-of-eight three-point shots in the second period. Winston played 36 minutes and Jermareo Davidson, who was also questionable with a knee injury, played 37 of the 40 minutes and had nine points.
Demetrius Smith, who started in place of Shelton, also had nine points. Antoine Pettway had 12 points for the Tide, but hit just four of 12 field goal attempts, including just two of 10 three-point tries.
Florida had the advantage in the intangibles because the hustling Gators scooped up most of the loose balls and got most of the contested rebounds. Florida out-scored Bama 26-16 in the paint, 17-11 on points off turnovers, 7-4 on second chance points, and 6-2 on fast break points.
With the Tide trailing by 13 with 19:19 remaining in the game, Winston drained three straight three pointers to pull Alabama within four points at 53-49 with 17:48 remaining. Bama was able to keep the game within six points over the next 10 minutes until Winston connected on his fifth three pointer of the second half and give Alabama a 72-71 advantage with 6:46 to play.
The Gators bounced right back and retook the lead at 74-72 but Winston tied the game again at 74 with a lay-up down the baseline.
Florida,however, proved to be too much to overcome as the Gators outscored the Tide 14-4 over the final 5:18 of the game.
Gottfried was pleased with the Tide's effort.
"I thought our effort was fabulous," Gottfried said. "We played hard and we wanted to win. I thought we made a lot of great plays at both ends of the floor. The last five minutes, Florida made a couple of more plays than we did. They made some free throws and got some offensive rebounds late in the game that hurt us."