The big mismatch that everyone was expecting never materialized, as 'Bama hung close to the sixth ranked Florida Gators, but lost 68-62. The Tide playing with out starting guard Retin Obasohan, played probably their best game of the year but was outmanned and could only keep the game close.
Florida led throughout the first half, but Trevor Releford and Shannon Hale scored enough to not let the Gators run away. The deficit was 29-26 when the Gators Michael Frazier buried a deep corner three and was fouled by Hale, giving Florida a seven point lead going into intermission.
Florida stretched the lead to 12 points midway through the second half, before the Tide mounted a charge, getting as close as four points. The game never became a one possession game however.
'Bama had four players in double digits, and a fifth with nine points. Releford (what's new?) led the team with 14, followed by Nick Jacobs with 12, Levi Randolph with 11 and Hale with 10. Rodney Cooper added nine, in a rare start. Algie Key started in Obasohan's place and led the team with seven rebounds.
Florida is big, tall, long and extremely talented. They play aggressive, relentless defense that disrupts teams offensive rhythm. Alabama played even on the boards, with Florida grabbing 42 rebounds and the Tide 39. Florida had 18 offensive rebounds, and uncharacteristically 'Bama grabbed 15 off offensive misses. Even facing Florida's full court press and superior athletes the Tide only committed seven turnovers. Releford was forced to play the full 40 minutes and handle the ball almost exclusively with Obasohan out.
The difference in the game was in three point shooting. 'Bama made only one each half, and shot 2-12 on the game. In contrast Florida was 10-28 from behind the arc, giving them 44% of their points on threes. Overall the Tide outshot the Gators 38.6% to 37.7%. Also for a change 'Bama won the free throw battle, 16-22, compared to 12-18 for Florida.
Jacobs showed some offensive flashes in scoring his 12 points, but grabbed only one rebound in 17 minutes of action. Carl Engstrom had five rebounds, and had a highlight block of a dunk attempt. had two points and four rebounds. These three need to provide more in the way of toughness, rebounding and defense in the middle for the Tide to be able to win some of these close games they keep losing.
As mentioned Florida is very good, and is a definite final four contender. They start four seniors, whereas 'Bama only has one senior on their roster. The Gator's live and die (mostly live) by the three point shot. Scottie Wilbekin and Frazier combined to take 21 shots, and 20 of them were of the triple variety. As long as they hit 30% plus of them, they will be tough for anyone to beat.
Florida is now 16-2 on the season, and 5-0 in the SEC. Alabama falls to 8-10, 2-3 in league play. The Tide takes on a very good LSU team Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum in a game to be televised by ESPN2. Hopefully for those of you that have to watch on TV Bobby Knight will not be on the call.
Hang in there. Roll Tide Y'all Roger