VETTEL: That was a Big Win

The Florida Gators answered the questions that lingered in many minds with an impressive 90-83 win at Alabama Tuesday night. The win was the biggest of the year for Florida and quickly raises expectations for a team that was viewed as a "bubble" team at best.

The win came despite Florida being minus-six in turnovers, giving the home standing Crimson Tide additional opportunities. The win came despite Marreese Speights managing just six points, seven rebounds and four turnovers in 24 minutes before fouling out. The win came despite Alabama power forward Richard Hendrix dominating the paint with 24 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots. The win came despite Florida native Alonzo Gee pouring in a career high 32 points.

The key moment came in the closing seconds of the first half when Jai Lucas raced up the court and nailed a 3-point shot at the buzzer to pull the Gators within seven at intermission. Florida came out smoking in the second half and ended up scoring 50 points in the final 20 minutes.

Florida was led by its three-man backcourt of Nick Calathes, Lucas and Walter Hodge. That trio combined for 57 points, 13 assists and a dozen rebounds. The trio shot the ball extremely well, combining for 9-for-13 from long range. Calathes once again was hanging out in the neighborhood of a triple-double with 21 points, seven boards and nine assists.

The Gators shot the ball extremely well, hitting 51 percent from the field and made exactly half (11-of-22) of their 3-pointers. Florida also battled on the boards and out-rebounded the stronger, more physical Alabama team by two (40- to 38).

Donovan Scheduling Paying Off

Florida entered this season one of the least experienced teams in the country having lost its top six players from the two-time NCAA Champions. Head coach Billy Donovan decided, criticism or not, he was going to give his young charges plenty of opportunities for success as they learned how to play at this level. Heading into the Alabama game, Florida had one of the weakest strength of schedule rankings in the country and that contributed to an RPI of well over 100 (115). But the Gators played better as the fall moved along and had its two best games prior to the start of SEC play. A road win over a team with an RPI in the seventies (76) should do wonders to help the Gators move up in that regard.

The early schedule has allowed Calathes and Lucas in particular to learn to play together, sharing the ball handling and playmaking responsibilities. The Florida guards are learning how to set up each other and their teammates, and that is evidenced by the team shooting over 50 percent from the field and better than 40 percent from 3-point range.

The Gators are now 14-2 and will have their SEC home opener against Auburn Saturday at noon.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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