Three-Point Run Helps Gators Advance

The box score didn't look pretty for Florida. Alabama shot almost 15% better than the Gators, won the rebounding margin by five and the teams were similar from the free throw line. Somehow, No. 19 Florida managed still to pull out a 66-63 win over the Crimson Tide to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals. Florida head coach Billy Donovan chalked it up to the late three-pointers.

It's not that Florida had one of its dominant three-point shooting performances. Those alone have won some games for the Gators this season, but that isn't how it happened on Friday.

The Gators shot just 33.3% (10-30) from behind the three-point line. The inability to get hot from deep kept the Florida offense from a strong showing, but Donovan thought the ten three-pointers his team did hit played a key role.

"(Ten) threes, the greatest equalizer in college basketball," Donovan said. "We made seven more than they did. That was the difference in the game.

"You can sometimes overcome a tough defensive night if you make enough threes and the other team doesn't. And I think that's what happened today."

Alabama shot 37.5% (3-8) from behind the three-point line, but that isn't their game. The Crimson Tide tried to dominate close to the rim from the start of the game, and they did that—outscoring Florida in the paint 38-20.

The three-point shot was too much for them to overcome. Florida went to the three and got some big ones when it needed them the most.

With under six minutes to play and the game tied at 51, Kenny Boynton launched a three but was fouled by JaMychal Green. After he hit all three free throws, Boynton forced a turnover and started a possession that ended with Scottie Wilbekin launching a three-pointer.

Alabama was playing zone and Andrew Steele got caught cheating to the basket, and when he sprinted out to contest Wilbekin's shot, he was overaggressive and hit Wilbekin's arm.

Even with the foul, the shot went in and gave the Gators a 57-51 lead. The three-point shot was there when Florida needed it.

"I thought two (were the) big key plays in the game," Donovan said.

The lack of three-point success in recent games still is a concern for Donovan. Florida is shooting 29.3% (29-99) in its last four games from behind the three-point line. It's not a surprise that the first three games in that stretch ended with a loss.

The timely three-pointers helped Florida on Friday, but the overall struggles from the line at the end of the season have been a concern.

"I don't think we shot it to the level we're capable of shooting it with the kind of looks that we got," Donovan said. "I thought we got some really, really good looks."

The road doesn't get any easier now.

Florida's reward for beating Alabama is a third showdown against No. 1 Kentucky. The Gators have already suffered 15 and 20-point losses to the Wildcats this season. Kentucky snuck by LSU 60-51 in the first game of the day in New Orleans.

The 20-point loss to Kentucky came on Sunday in Gainesville. With such a quick turnaround, Donovan didn't think there would be much time to change.

"We're playing tomorrow at noon (1 p.m. EST)," Donovan said. "There's probably not a whole bunch that you're going to be able to tweak and change. I think there's some things that we'll look at, how different we'll play, I'm not so sure.

"They're really, really good at looking at just basically when you sub, matchups where they think they have got an advantage. And in those situations, of their five guys, there's going to be somebody on the other team that they feel that they have got an incredible matchup on."

It's a chance for the Gators to get one more boost to the postseason credentials before the brackets are released on Sunday.

"We're looking forward to playing them," Erik Murphy said. "Obviously, it will basically be a road game, but we already played at Rupp before. We just got to execute or game plan."

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