Most of the time, writing about sports is fun. Games can be full of drama or importance, hope or promise. This game, though, has nothing fun about it. I won’t wax poetic here. It sucked, and I won’t even try to write around that.
Alabama didn’t score their first field goal until 8 minutes into the game. Let that sink in and marinate for a second. It got a little better after that— Alabama did score 53 points after all— but it wasn’t much better.
The Gators double- and triple-teamed every Tide player to try and take the ball inside the three point arc. Alabama’s had issues all season with ball-handling under pressure, so Florida was making sure to press that button the entire game. With the middle totally clogged up to prevent driving in and getting the ball Donta Hall, the Alabama offense was left with two options: make them pay with three-point shooting or draw double teams and then quickly pass the ball across to attack the backside.
They couldn’t do either. So Florida kept doing the same thing, and Alabama kept not scoring.
Some timely shots from John Petty did manage to cut the lead to 7 points right before halftime, though, and things were starting to look like Alabama would turn it around. Kira Lewis hit a nice three point shot to open the second half, but Florida kept scoring and stayed ahead of the Tide by a 12-17 point margin, winning every 50-50 ball, getting offensive rebounds, and just generally keeping the Alabama offense from ever having a chance of getting in rhythm.
Their defense finally slacked off for a little bit and Alabama’s offense looked like they might be remembering how to play college-level basketball at around the 12 minute mark as Herb Jones, John Petty, Kira Lewis and Donta Hall all rotated making high-energy baskets, scoring 8 straight and cutting the Florida lead from 51-34 to 52-44 in less than two minutes.
Fans at other places might have chosen just then to believe the game was about to turn around. We Alabama fans know something different though: It’s February... and it’s time for a monumental collapse. Florida called a timeout, resettled their defense, and only allowed 9 points to Alabama over the final 10 minutes of the game.
As a team, the Gators shot 54% to Alabama’s 44% on the day. Alabama shot 26% from three-point range and a mind-numbingly horrendous free throw percentage of 44%. Alabama was out-rebounded 23-31 by a smaller team and had only 6 assists for the entire game. You can’t win a basketball game with those kinds of numbers.
Alabama was led in points by Lewis, with 14. The freshman dribbling the ball was one of the only things on offense that worked, and it was still an inconsistent strategy. Lewis shot 50% from the floor, but only hit 50% of his 8 free throws, all while leading the team with 3 turnovers.
Donta Hall had 10 points of his own, all of which came from him bullying his way through a defender or three for a dunk or awkward layup. He also led the team with 7 rebounds, leaving him short of another double-double.
Petty also had 10 points, 6 of which came on 2 of his 4 three-point attempts. Past that, nobody else on the team had more than 5 points.
Just days after getting blown out on the road at Mississippi State, Alabama got blown out again at home by Florida, a team they should have been able to beat handily. The Gators have been a good defensive team all year, but probably the worst offense in the SEC.
One week ago, Alabama had beaten 4 of their last 6 foes, two of which were top-25 teams, and was being talked about as a team fighting for as high as a 6 or 7 seed. With back to back losses, one against a pretty subpar team, Alabama has likely drifted back in the NCAA seeding. I don’t think they’re looking at a play-in game just yet, but the margin for error just got a lot slimmer.
Coach Avery Johnson will have his work cut out for him in figuring out why his offense was totally unable to adjust to the aggressive Florida defense.