The Crimson Tide basketball team, much like their football counterparts the night before, held a late lead, but couldn't hold on and faded down the stretch, losing 80-67 to the Florida Gators on Tuesday night. Somehow, despite horrendous free throw shooting all night, the Tide held a 53-47 lead with about nine minutes left in the game. For the game, ‘Bama hit only 16-32 from the charity stripe. The Tide fell to 9-6 on the year, and 2-1 in the SEC. The Gators are now 13-3, 4-0 in conference.
Florida came out fast, and built an 18 point lead over the Tide in the middle of the first half. ‘Bama fought back and behind 15 first half points from Braxton Key, cut the lead to 38-31 at halftime. The boys in Crimson brought the heat early in the second half, and with a three from Key, a steal and a basket from Avery Johnson Jr. and two powerful follow-up slam dunks from Donta Hall, finally took the lead, 46-45. The Tide last led by a score of 58-57 with about seven minutes left. From there Florida methodically pushed the lead out with a combination of tough pressure defense, good free throw shooting and some timely three pointers.
The Tide struggled in taking care of the basketball, committing 18 turnovers, seven by Dazon Ingram, four from Key and three from Johnson Jr. - the team’s primary ball handlers. Mixed in with the historically bad free throw shooting spelled doom for the team, as they couldn't push the lead out with the simplest of shots on the court - the free ones. Things did get a little better in the second half after a 3-13 first half showing as the Tide improved to 13-19 in the second half.
Alabama shot evenly with Florida, 46% to 47% for the Gators, and 38% from three point range, to 35% for the visitors. The Tide, as is their MO lately, won the battle of the boards by a margin of 37-30. ‘Bama has been very good at bench scoring, but got destroyed 41-17 by Florida on this night. That along with the poor free throw shooting and the turnovers were the difference in the loss. UF hit 24 of their 32 free attempts.
Key had a career night with his 25 points and added five rebounds. Donta Hall played only 15 minutes, and fouled out, but contributed 12 points and a team leading eight rebounds. Ar’Mond Davis continued his push for playing time by scoring 10 points in 17 minutes. Bola Olaniyan contributed six rebounds in 15 minutes, and no one else did anything of note.
The Gators had balanced scoring with Keith Stone leading with 14 and Canyon Barry, son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry, tossed in 13. Three other players scored eight on the night. The younger Barry takes after his dad, the all time NBA free throw shooter, by taking his free throw chances underhanded. The elder Barry was in attendance along with Alabama Alum and former US Open Champion Golfer, Jerry Pate.
The Tide gave away their currency they had won after their road victory at Mississippi State by losing at home. Now they must go out and steal another road victory. The next chance to do so is Saturday when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the reeling LSU Tigers (9-5, 1-2) in a 2:30 p.m. tip. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. The Tigers coach, Johnny Jones, is on the hottest of hot seats. This is a game that ‘Bama can win, but they must take better care of the ball, and shoot a reasonable percentage from the free throw line - which isn't too much to ask from SEC basketball players.