Alabama went for the early kill of the reigning kings of college basketball on the road Wednesday night at the O'Connell Center, but didn't get a big enough bite of the Gators in the early going for its lead to hold up, losing to Florida 76-67.
Taurean Green's 3-pointer with two minutes to play in the game gave Florida a 68-64 lead, it's biggest of the game at the time, and Alabama never got within a field goal again.
Instead of Alabama digging itself a double-digit hole at the outset of the game as it had done against Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Georgia, the Crimson Tide laid wood to the Florida Gators early in Gainesville. Alabama led 11-0 and 22-4 in the early going bewildering the defending national champions. Florida's first basket of the night came four minutes and 24 seconds into the game.
"There was a time we weren't playing very well," Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said. "We're playing a lot better basketball than we have been. We put ourselves in a position but we didn't finish."
Green's 3-pointer at the 9:20 mark of the second half gave Florida its first lead, 56-54. The Florida guard led all starters with 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting from the field. He was 2 for 8 from 3-point range and 6 of 6 on free throws.
"They hit some shots and got the ball in the basket," Gottfried said. "We're disappointed but we're going to build on this and finish this year strong. Our effort has been very good. Their attitudes have been great. We've just got to get over the hump."
Alabama's lead had slipped to eight points in the final minutes of the first half but Mykal Riley buried a 3-pointer with 13 seconds in the half which gave Alabama a 42-31 lead at halftime.
Riley finished the game with 10 points, but Richard Hendrix led Alabama with 16 points and eight rebounds. Alonzo Gee had 15 points and Jermareo Davidson had 13. Alabama point guard Ronald Steele looked more explosive in the first half, but finished the game with only five points.