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Alabama Basketball Snatches Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

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The Tide blew a huge lead and just missed a massive road win to open SEC play.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Boy oh boy. The Crimson Tide was clicking on all cylinders through most of the first half on Saturday night in Gainesville, until they weren't. The Tide built a 21 point lead that got cut to 14 over the last two minutes of the first frame. Florida then scored the first six points of the second half to make a game out of it. Poor court awareness, missed layups, and missed free throws, doomed the Tide down the stretch, and the Gators pulled out a 104-98 win in double overtime. The Tide fell to 7-6 overall and 0-1 in the SEC, Florida improved to 9-4, 1-0.

The loss was the third one-possession game the Tide has lost this season: Penn at home, on the road at Penn State, and last night versus Florida. The big first half lead came with virtually no offensive help from their two top scorers, Kira Lewis and John Petty. Alex Reese and Beetle Bolden came off the bench to score 10 and nine points in the half, respectively. When Galin Smith flushed home a missed shot, the Tide had a 14-0 run to take control. The Gators made a run to cut into the lead, but the Tide pushed it back out, and when Reese hit a three with 2:30 left, Bama had a 46-25 advantage. The Tide allowed the Gators to score the last seven points of the half to make the lead 14, at 46-32.

In the first half Bama was hot, shooting 15-31 for 48%, including 7-14 from three point range, and 9-11 from the free throw line. Meanwhile the Tide defense held the Gators to 12-33 shooting for 36%, with only 1-6 from three point range. UF did make 7-9 first half free throws.

Florida came out of the locker room and hit two consecutive three point shots to cut the lead to six. The Tide, especially Lewis, continued to miss layups, and the lead fluctuated from six to 12 points over the next several minutes. The Gators would get close, and the Tide would bounce back to stretch it out again.

With 10:43 left the Tide had a 65-52 lead, only to see Florida reel off seven straight points. With 2:49 left Lewis hit a twisting layup to give the Tide a 78-69 lead, that seemed like it might put the game away, but a minute later it was trimmed to 80-75 and Lewis missed another shot right at the rim. Petty hit a short shot for a 83-78 lead with 30 seconds left. Again, that should have been enough. Florida hit a three, and all the Tide had to do was get the ball in bounds and hit the free throws after the inevitable foul. Lewis took an inbound pass and called a timeout without trying to advance the ball. On the ensuing inbounds, Petty threw the ball away and UF hit a layup with 10 seconds left to tie the game. Bama had a couple of decent looks before the buzzer, but couldn't hit and the game went to overtime. Florida finished regulation on a 14-5 run to force the extra time.

To the Tide’s credit, they fought back after falling behind in the first overtime period. With 55 seconds left Herbert Jones was fouled and made 1-2 free throws, and Bama trailed 90-89. Florida scored to take a three point lead with 35 seconds left. Petty hit a corner three to tie the game with 10 seconds left, at 92-92.

In the second extra period Florida shot out to a four point lead, but another Petty three tied things at 96 with 1:32 left. A layup by Lewis tied the game at 98. Jones then fouled out, following Smith and Javian Davis who had fouled out earlier. In contrast, Florida’s big man, Kerry Blackshear, played over 20 minutes of game time with four fouls, despite a couple that could have easily been called. Florida led 100-98 with 38 seconds left when Lewis made an ill-advised baseline drive culminating in a wild shot that Blackshear swatted away. The Gators put the game away with four straight made free throws, to take the six point win.

The Tide dropped off to 10-30 shooting in the second half, and 6-14 in the two overtime periods. Three point shooting dropped off to 4-14 in the second half, and 2-6 in the two extra periods. The free throw shooting cost the team, going 14-23 in the last 30 minutes of play. For the game Bama finished 31-76 (41%), 13-34 (38%), and 23-34 for 67% from the free throw line. The Tide finished with 46 rebounds, 11 assists, only 12 turnovers, two blocks, and seven steals. Florida heated up in the second half to 16-30 from the field, 7-15 from three, and 12-14 from the line. In the overtime periods the Gators were 5-13 from the field, 0-2 from deep, and 11-13 from the charity stripe. For the game Florida finished 33-76 (43%), 8-23 (35%) and won the game at the free throw line with a 30-36 (83%) performance. The Gators grabbed 52 rebounds, dished 11 assists, had 13 turnovers, six blocked shots, and seven steals.

The Tide had six players in double figures. Petty shook off his slow start and finished with 19 points and seven rebounds. Lewis had 17 points on 7-25 shooting, added six rebounds, three assists, and four steals. Jones continued his strong play with 15 points and led the team in rebounds with nine and assists with four. Bolden was big off the bench, in 34 minutes, scoring 15 points. Reese added 14 points, and Jaden Shackelford was the sixth player in double figures with 11 points, and had six rebounds. Andrew Nembhard led the Gators with 25 points and Blackshear had 24 points and 16 big rebounds.

What a devastating loss for the Tide. After a slow start to the season the team had righted the ship and had won five of their last six games. A road win over a blue blood SEC program to start the conference schedule would have been a big boost to the team. With the depleted roster a double over time game with three players fouling out was just too much to manage. On top of that Reese was throwing up at half time, but with Smith only managing 13 minutes before fouling out, and Davis only 17 before being disqualified, Reese had to gut it out and the fatigue caught up with the team. Lewis with 46 minutes, Jones with 45, and Petty with 44 were ironman for the Tide.

Next up is a home game with Mississippi Stat at 6 p.m on Wednesday, January 8th. The game can be seen on the SEC Network. State lost to Auburn in their SEC opener this afternoon.

Roll Tide #BallAndOats

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