No. 22 Florida 66, Alabama 63

Alabama’s JaMychal Green was terrific on Friday, finishing in

the paint, grabbing rebounds, dishing out assists and generally

being a huge pain for Florida.

There’s just one free-throw attempt he’d like to have back.

The Crimson Tide lost 66-63 to the Gators in the Southeastern

Conference tournament quarterfinals, failing to convert two chances

to tie the game in the final seconds.

Green led Alabama with 22 points while Trevor Releford scored 12

and Trevor Lacey added 11. Green had an opportunity to tie it with

20.3 seconds left but missed the second of two free-throw

attempts.

”I knew I had to step up and make it,” Green said.

”Unfortunately, it rimmed out.”

Lacey also had a fairly clean 3-point look at the buzzer, but it

bounced off the front of the rim.

It was a tough ending for Alabama and especially Green, a

6-foot-8 senior forward who was 7 for 14 from the field and hit his

first eight free throws before the crucial miss at the end. He also

added 10 rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.

Erik Murphy had 15 points and Kenny Boynton scored 14 for the

Gators, who shot just 38.5 percent (20 of 52) from the field,

including 33.3 percent (10 of 30) from 3-point range.

The Gators had a 45-33 lead with 12:50 remaining after Murphy

hit a pair of free throws, but Alabama responded with a 16-4 run to

tie it at 49 on Green’s three-point play with 6:52 to go.

Though the game was usually tight, the Crimson Tide never

led.

”I think this time of year, you’ve got to find ways to advance

and move on and we did,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Florida (23-9) will face top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday in the

semifinals. The Gators lost to the Wildcats twice this season, but

hope their postseason-tested team will be up for the challenge.

Much of Florida’s roster was around last season, when the Gators

advanced to the Elite Eight.

”Our team, we’re mature,” said Boynton, who hit two late free

throws to seal the victory. ”We’ve been through everything, played

the best teams throughout this year, so I think we’ll come out

tomorrow and be ready to play.”

Alabama (21-11) lost for just the second time in seven

games.

”My teammates did a great job of finding me,” Green said. ”I

think we did a great job of just passing the ball and playing as a

team.”

It’s been a struggle of late for Florida, which lost its last

three regular-season games to Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

And this one wasn’t much different – except for the final

result. The Gators shot just 32 percent (8 of 25) from the field in

the first half and led 26-24 at the break after Alabama’s Levi

Randolph hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Alabama’s defense had something to do with Florida’s offensive

woes. The Crimson Tide’s bruising, grind-it-out style is completely

opposite of the Gators, who like to run, shoot and turn the game

into a constant sprint.

It wasn’t until Erving Walker’s outburst early in the second

half that the Gators were finally able to get some separation. The

5-foot-8 point guard scored seven points in less than five minutes,

shrugging off Alabama’s physical guards and consistently getting

into the lane, where he could finish at the rim or find another

shooter around the 3-point line.

For a while, it looked as if the Gators looked would cruise, but

Alabama erased a 12-point deficit in less than six minutes.

The Tide shot 56.5 percent (13 for 23) from the field in the

second half and outrebounded Florida 32-27 for the game.

Lacey got a fairly clean look on the last-gasp 3-point attempt,

but it was short.

”I thought we got a good look,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant

said. ”I thought it had a chance to go in, but unfortunately, it

didn’t go in our favor.”

Now Alabama will have to wait before finding out if it will

advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

”Obviously, we feel good about what we have been able to

accomplish over the course of the season,” Grant said. ”We just

have to wait and see what happens.”

Follow David Brandt on Twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP