Tide Miserable In SEC Opener

Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried pointed out that every Southeastern Conference game counts the same: One. That is correct. But there is a difference between one win, which Florida has, and one loss, which Alabama has.

. Alabama was playing a team billed as the two-time defending national champion when the Crimson Tide hosted Florida in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night. It's true that the Gators have similar uniforms to the ones worn by the players who won those two NCAA titles. Florida doesn't have the same players who won those titles, but they still have Coach Billy Donovan, who had the Gators playing like they expect to win a third straight title.

. Florida probably won't Three-Peat because the road will get a lot tougher. And it will get a lot tougher for Alabama, too, as SEC play is underway.

. On Tuesday night, the Gators turned a 10-point deficit near the end of the first half into an 11-point lead late in the second half and the Gators left Tuscaloosa with a 90-83 win over Bama.

. Gottfried said, "We're disappointed, but I was proud of our guys' effort. We played hard. We can do some things better, but if we get that kind of effort every night we'll be okay."

. That effort will next be put to the text at Arkansas on Sunday. Alabama, now 11-5 overall, takes on the Razorbacks at 3 p.m. CST Sunday in a game that will be regionally telecast by Raycom (formerly the Lincoln Financial network).

. Th.e name of the game is shooting, and Florida shot the ball much better than Alabama, particularly in the second half. The Gators had a number of uncontested three-point shots and connected on 50 per cent of them, 11-22. Meanwhile, Alabama's three-pointer production dipped dramatically in the second half. Bama hit 6-13 in the first half, only 2-13 in the second half.

. For the game, Alabama was good on 30-68 field goals, 44.1 per cent, but the percentage fell from 50 per cent in the first half to 36.7 per cent in the second half. Mykal Riley (3-11), Rico Pickett (3-10) and Brandon Hollinger (0-3) played 97 of Alabama's 200 minutes and shot just 25 per cent.

. The loss tarnished excellent play by Alonzo Gee and Richard Hendrix. Gee, a Florida native, scored 32 points and had eight rebounds and two steals. Hendrix had 24 points and 16 rebounds and contributed four assists, three blocked shots and two steals against only one turnover. Riley also reached double figures with 12 points.

. But in some respects Hendrix wore goat horns. "It's frustrating," Hendrix said of his 12-21 shooting from the free throw line. "I've been in a season-long slump." Both Alabama and Florida shot 26 free throws, but the Gators made 21, Alabama only 15.

. Gottfried said Hendrix had worked hard on his free throw shooting and would continue to work hard. "I think he'll get better," the coach said.

. Alabama led by 47-40 at halftime, but Florida outscored the Tide 50-36 in the second half.

. "We scored 83 points and that should be enough to win," Gottfried said. "We've got to get better on defense."

. The Tide coach gave credit to Florida for clutch play by the Gators. "They hit every big shot they had to have," Gottfried said.

. A key play came just before halftime. Bama had built a 10-point lead just before intermission, but the Gators' Jai Lucas hit a tough three-point basket at the buzzer. Florida then scored to start the second half and got a quick turnover to add two more points and Bama's lead had dwindled to three.

. But the big move came late in the second half. With 7:09 to play, Gee hit a three-point shot to tie the game at 71-71. Florida then ran off 11 consecutive points to take an 82-71 lead with 4:02 to play.

. Alabama tried to rally, and had a glimmer of hope when Nick Calathes missed a free throw with 25 seconds to play and the Gators leading 86-83. That glimmer lasted just seconds, though, as Dan Werner rebounded the miss. Instead of Bama having a chance to perhaps getting a tying three-pointer in the waning seconds, Werner hit two foul shots to put the game away.

. Four Gators scored in double figures—Calathes with 21, Lucas 19, Walter Hodge 17, and Werner 12.

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