There was a fast start, an almost dramatic slowdown, an impressive comeback and a convincing finish. All of those described the Florida Gators 64-52 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide at one point or another during the game. Florida improved to 23-5 (13-3 SEC) on the season, while Alabama fell to 19-10 (11-5 SEC). With the Gators eyeing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the loss will make it harder for the Tide to even get in.
The Gators were down by three at the break and by as much as eight in the second half. It looked like it was gearing up to be quite the let down when Florida kicked it into the next gear and went on a 15-0 run to but Bama away. That run put the Gators up by nine and they would go on to win by 12. It was another double-digit SEC win, but was also a game that easily could have gone the other way. There were definitely times when you could almost feel the game slipping away, but–as opposed to recent losses–the Gators composed themselves, fought back and came away with the victory.
Junior forward Will Yeguete and freshman guard Michael Frazier II returned, but they were limited. The pair gave Florida 17 minutes, no points and just one lone rebound, but their appearances were enough to spark the rest of the team. Senior forward Erik Murphy led the way with 15 points, senior guard Kenny Boynton had 13, junior guard Scottie Wilbekin had 11 and junior forward Casey Prather added 10 off the bench.
One of the more telling stats of the day was the number of times the Gators allowed the Tide to go to the charity stripe. Alabama attempted just 10 free throws during the game as Florida only fouled the Tide nine times. The fact that the Tide could only connect on four of those 10 attempts hurt their chances even more. On the other end, the Gators hit 22 of their 26 attempts. It was an impressive display from Florida and made up for the fact that the Gators were only 2-of-13 from three-point land.
The win pushes Florida into the final week of the season on a high note. The Gators only have two games remaining–March 6 against the Vanderbilt Commodores and March 9 at the Kentucky Wildcats–and will look for big victories in both. Florida hasn’t faced Vandy yet this season, but defeated Kentucky by 17 in the first matchup between the two. With two more convincing wins, the Gators could be looking at a No. 1 or No. 2 seed come tourney selection time.