Strong second half propels No. 3 Florida

Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn't happy with his team's first half effort, and he made sure to let them know at halftime. The message was received. Florida opened the second half on a – run to take control of the game. The Gators cruised to their 29th straight home win with all five scorers in double figures, finishing off a – win over Alabama.

"He said we weren't doing what we talked about in guarding Trevor Releford and running our offense," Patric Young said.. He said we were a trainwreck on offense in the first half."

The game didn't look like it would be close in the first 3:07 of play. Casey Prather's driving layup down the baseline pushed the lead to 12-2, and the Gators looked like they would run away with another blowout Southeastern Conference win. After that point, Alabama closed the half on a 34-24 run.

The Gators allowed Alabama to shoot 60.9 percent in the first half and score 36 points. It was the most points Florida has allowed at home in the first half this season and the most points they've allowed in the first half in any game since Memphis on December 17.

So when the Gators got into the locker room at halftime, they faced a frustrated and angry head coach.

"He was upset," Casey Prather said. "He told us to stick with it and just preserve like we always have."

The Alabama scoring was led by Releford, who scored 16 points in the first half on 6-8 shooting from the field. In the second half, the Gators keyed in on him and held him to just nine points on 1-2 from the field.

"He did a good job," Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "He's their best player and he played well tonight. We just lost him and he capitalized."

Alabama changed its style of attack from the teams' first meeting on January 23. In Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide tried to slow the game down, run 35 seconds off the shot clock on every play and keep the Gators from running. On Saturday in Gainesville, Alabama welcomed a foot race. They pushed the pace, switched defenses and tried to turn the game into a track meet.

Usually that falls into Florida's favor -- and it did in the second half -- but it was a different look for the Gators, who have grown used to see teams try to slow games down.

Whether it was Florida getting used to Alabama's defensive looks or Donovan's halftime speech, the Gators opened the second half on an 11-5 run and never looked back.

"We had to settle down," Wilbekin said. "We got some easy looks, but we had to move the ball around more. We made some shots, played better defense and overall just played better."

The Gators now prepare for their toughest week of conference playing, heading to Knoxville to face Tennessee on Tuesday before traveling to play at Kentucky on Saturday.


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