Alabama Faces Florida In SEC Tourney

Can you imagine the Florida basketball assistant coach charged with making the scouting report for Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament? What does he say about Alonzo Gee?

Although Alonzo Gee has been all but non-existent in Alabama basketball games of late, the Florida Gators will have a note reminding them that Gee -- a Florida native -- scored 32 points against the Gators in the Southeastern Conference season-opener a couple of months ago.

Alabama will remember that Gee's points, along with 24 points and 16 rebounds from Richard Hendrix, were not enough.

Alabama started blowing big leads early this season. In that game, which might have been something of a turning point for the 2007-08 Bama basketball team, the Tide had as much as a 10-point lead shortly before intermission. The Gators cut it to seven at halftime (47-40), and then roared past the Tide in the second half.

The Gators outscored Coach Mark Gottfried's Bama squad by 50-36 in the second half to take a 90-83 decision.

Florida went on from that game to an 8-8 conference record, finishing fifth in the SEC Eastern Division. Alabama struggled to a 5-11 mark, fifth in the SEC West. Thus the teams meet in the first round of the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Thursday. Tipoff will be at 7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 p.m. central time) with regional television coverage.

Alabama is 16-15 overall and must win four games and the conference championship to advance to NCAA Tournament play. Florida is the two-time defending national champion, but the Gators are not the same squad that won those titles. Still, Florida's 21-10 overall record (even against poor competition) should get Florida back in the NCAA Tournament.

The winner of Thursday's game plays at the same time Friday against Mississippi State, winner of the West.

As jas beem tje case all year, Florida was led in its win over Bama by Nick Calathes, a 6-6 freshman guard. Calathes has averaged 15.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.

Alabama is led by Hendrix, the only SEC player averaging a double-double. Hendrix averages 17.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game.

Gee still averages 14.6 points per game, but his playing time has diminished greatly in recent weeks. Mykal Riley is coming off a huge game in which he scored 26 points, 13 of them in overtime, in a win over Vanderbilt. Riley, the only senior who sees playing time for Bama, averages 14.5 points per game.

Gottfried said he and his team realize the task that faces them. "We've packed our suitcases to be here until Sunday (the day of the championship game)," Gottfried said. "But you've got to win one game at a time to do it.

"I think our players are excited about playing. I think that it's a new season."

Hendrix, who has been slowed with a knee problem recently, said, "I'm ready to go. I'm ready to play hard, ready to move, ready to give it all I've got, ready to win."

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