The Crimson Tide did enough things wrong to get blown out on Saturday against the Florida Gators in the O'Connell Center in Gainesville.
The Tide shot 30% in the first half, shot 55% from the free throw line, and got out-rebounded by a remarkable 54-35 margin. Alabama had its best player foul out with five minutes remaining, followed by losing its sharp-shooting guard 13 seconds later.
However this 'Bama team showed remarkable resolve and pulled out a highly unlikely 61-55 victory, its first win in Gainesville since 1995.
The first half was ugly for both teams as they both only hit 9-30 shots for 30% from the field. The Tide was 3-7 from three point range and 2-2 from the charity stripe in the first stanza. UF was 2-9 from the three point line and 7-9 from the free throw line. The Gators held a 27-23 half time advantage after scoring 10 straight points before Justin Coleman hit maybe the most important shot of the game, banking in a long three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the lead.
Florida frustrated the Tide by pressing full court and not letting Retin Obasohan get to the rim and score as he has so many times lately. Obasohan was 2-10 in the half and had five points. UF big man John Egbunu had seven points and five rebounds at the break.
The second half continued to be close, and the Tide pull grabbed a 35-34 lead with 13:22 left in the game. 'Bama finally took the lead for good with 8:50 left when Obasohan hit a twisting lay up and free throw for a 43-41 lead. Holding a 48-43 lead with 5:43 left, Obasohan quickly picked up his fourth and fifth fouls, disqualifying him from the game. Arthur Edwards replaced him and picked up his fifth foul just 13 seconds later, leaving the Tide without their best player, and one of their very best outside shooters.
From that point on, Jimmie Taylor woke up and took over the game -- playing his best game in a crimson jersey to date. He scored on two monster dunks and a pretty little hook shot. On defense he continually blocking Gator shots in the paint. The Tide stumbled somewhat down the stretch, helping keep Florida in the game by not being able to make their free throws. In the end, Justin Coleman hit 4-4 and Riley Norris hit 2-2 down the stretch to help secure the victory.
The Tide shot the ball well from the field in the second half,12-20 (60%), on the strength of Obasohan's drive to the hoop and Taylor's fine inside play. 'Bama is typically a team that lives or dies by the three-point shot, but attempted only five in the second half, making two. Free throw shooting continues to be an issue, going just 12-22 in the second half, when a few more makes would have put the game away.
The Tide defense continued to clamp down on the Gators in the second half, holding them to 9-33 (27%) from the field, including 1-12 (8%) from the three point line. UF also hurt themselves at the line, making only 9-18 in the half. The Gators absolutely destroyed the Tide on the boards by a margin of 54-35, including a ridiculous 23 on the offensive glass, to only six for 'Bama.
Obasohan led the team with 15 points, adding seven rebounds and two assists before fouling out.Taylor had one of his better games in Crimson scoring 11 points and blocking five shots, but he continues to struggle rebounding, grabbing only four. Coleman and Hale both added 10 points, to give the Tide four players in double figures. Norris played his typical steady game and had seven points and six rebounds to go with two assists and a steal. 'Bama took care of the ball much better, only committing 10 turnovers, while forcing 12 from the Gators.
Florida also had four players in double digits, led by Dorian Finney-Smith and KeVaughn Allen with 12 each. Egbunu and Justin Leon both scored 10. Devin Robinson had 12 rebounds, followed by Egbunu with 11 and Finney-Smith with nine.
The unlikely win was the Tide's first in Gainesville since 1995, (when a guy names Antonio McDyess led the team) and the first of any kind against Florida since an SEC Tournament victory under Mark Gottfried, a streak of 11 straight games. The Gators were a top 50 team, and another good victory on the Tide's suddenly impressive resume. The victory was the teams fourth straight, and fifth in their past six games. With four wins over top 25 teams, and only one bad loss (F AU,) so far the men in Crimson are turning heads around the country and gaining momentum for a possible NCAA berth.
Even the most ardent Alabama fans couldn't imagine being in this position at this point in the season, particularly after losing point guard Dazon Ingram early in the season to a broken foot. The future is certainly bright,but it may be here sooner rather than later.
Buckle Up! Roll Tide Roll