Gators advance past Alabama

Florida scored a 69-61 win over Alabama in the SEC Tournament's Thursday opener. Dorian Finney-Smith terrorized the Crimson Tide with an emphatic double-double.

NASHVILLE – Florida (16-16, 8-10) picked up a win in Thursday's opening game at the 2015 SEC Tournament, running past Alabama (18-14, 8-10) by the final score of 69-61.

Dorian Finney-Smith paced the Gators with a double-double, posting 23 points and 11 rebounds, both game-highs.

"I wanted to come out since the suspension and pick up the energy," said Finney-Smith, who was reinstated by Billy Donovan on Feb. 27 after missing three games for violating team rules. "I want to play for these guys."

Florida led for most of the ballgame, 26 minutes and 29 seconds to be exact, carrying a 33-29 lead into the half that quickly turned into a double-digit margin several minutes into the second stanza.

Eli Carter (11) and Devin Robinson (10) joined Finney-Smith in double figures scoring guard Chris Chiozza had a well-rounded impact, registering seven points, five rebounds and four assists against only one turnover.

Jimmie Taylor and Levin Randolph had 15 points apiece for the Crimson Tide in a losing effort.

With the win Florida prolonged its season, now set to play No. 1 Kentucky Friday in the quarterfinals at Noon Central Time, and strengthened its case to make the NIT by leveling its overall record.

"We're excited for opportunity to play tomorrow," Donovan said postgame. "It's our third time to play Kentucky, second in the last week. I think the quick turnaround for us is a positive."

Donovan also had some strong words concerning his former pupil and current Alabama coach Anthony Grant, presumed by many to be on the hot seat in Tuscaloosa.

"I don't think people have any idea how great of a coach Anthony Grant is," explained Donovan, miffed at the line of questioning. "He's been playing catch-up a lot."

Even more to the point, Donovan, who wrote off the notion of the Tide firing Grant as "a mistake," continued, "Alabama better hope he comes back."

Grant coached at Florida under Donovan from 1996-2006 but is yet to beat his former mentor in 10 tries while at Alabama.

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