Gators Grab First SEC Win

Heading into their SEC opener, the question for the young Florida Gators' basketball team was how they would handle playing in a hostile environment. Florida responded with a high-energy second half effort to erase a 10-point Alabama lead, grabbing a 90-83 win in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night.

The Gators (14-2, 1-0 SEC) overcame a sloppy first half filled with turnovers to outscore Alabama (11-5, 0-1 SEC) 50-36 in the second half. Walter Hodge scored 12 points in the second half to spark the Gator comeback. Florida trailed the Tide by 10 until Jai Lucas knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half.

In Florida's two losses, including their loss at Ohio State, they did not shoot the ball well, but that wasn't the case on Tuesday. Florida hit 10 of their first 16 shots. But trailing by only two points with seven minutes left in the first half, they suddenly went cold. A 1-for-8 streak combined with a pair of turnovers by Nick Calathes allowed Bama to open up a 38-28 lead. Alonzo Gee scored 17 before the break and finished with a career-high 32 points to lead the Crimson Tide.

Billy Donovan turned up the defensive pressure to start the second half. That was enough to spark a fire under the young Gators who would eventually take control of the game. Trailing by six, 59-53, Florida rattled off eight straight points to take their first lead midway through the second half. Hodge, who finished with 17 points, knocked down a 3-pointer as did Lucas who finished with 19.

Alabama fought back to take a 66-63 lead, but with the score tied at 71, the Gators ran off 11 straight to take the lead for good. Bama was able to cut it down to two points with a minute left, but Florida hit 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal their first conference win of the season.

Despite some carelessness with the ball, Calathes led the Gators with 21 points and also pulled down seven rebounds. The Gators shot 52 percent from the floor, made 80 percent of their free throws and knocked down 11-of-22 from beyond the arc. Dan Werner added 12 points.

The Gators return home to the O'Connell Center for a noon tip-off against Auburn on Saturday.

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

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