Alabama Again Loses By A Point

Alabama isn't a good enough basketball team to give things away. Unfortunately for the Crimson Tide, Florida was given too many opportunities in Coleman Coliseum Thursday night, and the Gators took advantage for a 66-65 victory.

For the second consecutive game, Alabama had the ball in the final seconds and a chance to pull out the victory, and for the second straight game Bama didn't get a shot, throwing away an in-bounds pass. The Crimson Tide had costly missed free throws, critical turnovers late in the game, and most importantly allowed Florida too many second chance scoring opportunities. Florida scored 21 points on second chances, Alabama just six.

The last of those second chances gave the Gators the Southeastern Conference victory.

Florida missed a shot with just over 17 seconds to play, but got the rebound and with a second chance Erving Walker drove down the middle of the lane and made a short jumper to give the Gators the lead.

Bama lost its second straight SEC game and is now 13-9 overall and 3-5 in SEC games. Florida, which has been in a number of down-to-the-last-shot games this year, improved to 16-6 overall and 5-3 in conference games.

Alabama still had a chance to pull out the win in the final 10 seconds. Mikhail Torrance drove the lane, but had his shot attempt blocked out of bounds by the Gators. With 3.5 seconds to play, Alabama used two timeouts to work an inbounds play, but freshman Tony Mitchell's pass was slapped into the backcourt by Florida's Dan Werner, and time expired.

It was Alabama's second consecutive one-point loss and the third one-point defeat in SEC games.

It looked as though Bama might have fought back for victory when the Crimson Tide scored five unanswered points in the final minute-plus to take the lead at 65-64. After leading most of the first half, the Tide fell behind in the second half and the Gators had stretched the lead to four and had the basketball. Anthony Brock made a midcourt steal, drove for the layup and was fouled. He made the free throw to pull the Tide within a point with 1:09 to play. After a Florida missed shot, Torrance drove the lane and put up a short jumper that gave Alabama the 65-64 lead with 42 seconds to play.

Florida's Walker drove the lane and put up a high shot that didn't hit the rim. The Gators' Kenny Boynton got the rebound with nine seconds on the shot clock and 17 on the play clock. After a Florida timeout, Walker took the inbounds pass, drove the lane and put up a shot that bounced softly on the rim, then fell through.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "You have to give Florida credit. They made plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor. I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought the guys we had on the floor put their hearts into it."

Torrance led Alabama with a game-high 22 points on 7-15 shooting (including 5-11 three-pointers) and also had five assists and only one turnover. His turnover, though, came late in the game and led to a Florida layup and the Gators' largest lead of the game, 62-56 with 3:22 to play.

JaMychal Green had 14 points and three blocked shots, but only five rebounds and suffered three turnovers. Tony Mitchell had 10 points.

Florida's domination on the backboards, out-rebounding Alabama 35-24, was a critical advantage for the Gators. Florida was led by Alex Tyus with 19 points, Walker with 16, and Boynton with 15. Werner, the man who made the winning play at the end, knocking away the Tide's inbounds pass, did not score.

Grant said, "Florida has good size. We didn't do a good enough job blocking out."

Alabama has lost a number of games this year because the Tide did not get near as many free throw opportunities as the opponent. Against Florida, Bama got plenty of foul shots, but missed too many. Alabama was 12-18 with all of the misses coming in the second half. Florida was only 5-8 on free throws.

Alabama had taken a 37-33 halftime lead primarily because of its three-point shooting. Bama hit 7-14 from behind the arc in the first half, including 4-7 by Mikhail Torrance, who had 14 first half points, and 2-3 by Tony Mitchell, including one just before the buzzer. Mitchell had 10 points at intermission, but didn't score in the second half.

Florida's greatest success in the first half had been after missed shots. The Gators had 14 second chance points, most on put-backs. Inside player Alex Tyus led the Gators with 10 points at halftime.

Although there were nine first half lead changes, the Gators never led by more than two points. Bama led by as many as eight points and Bama had the lead for the final eight minutes of the first half.

Florida played the first half in zone defense, but switched to man-to-man in the second half. Alabama is almost always man-to-man, but did show a little zone in the second half.

For the game, the lead changed hands 16 times and there were nine ties.

The third one-point loss of the season and second in a row has to sting. But Grant said, "Whether it's by one or by 20, a loss is a loss. We have to find a way to get better and move forward. We've got a game at 5 o'clock Saturday, so we don't have time to dwell on a win or a loss."

?Alabama goes to Ole Miss Saturday. Tipoff will be at 5 p.m. CST. The Crimson Tide does not return home until Saturday, February 13, when Bama hosts Arkansas. In between is a February 9 trip to Kentucky.

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