Florida stamps down late surge to beat Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — No. 23 Florida is growing but not quite grown, and coach Mike White chalked up the wildness of a victory Tuesday night to it just being an “odd game.”
Keith Stone had 14 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers during the second half, and Florida rallied after squandering an 18-point lead to beat Alabama 80-67.
“I’m not sure if these same guys would have been capable of winning a game like this last season,” White said. “I’m proud of my guys. We’re getting better.”
Braxton Key had a career-high 24 points and helped Alabama (9-6, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) rally after trailing 34-16 with five minutes left in the first half.
Key had 12 points while the Crimson Tide closed the half on a 15-4 run, and Alabama took the lead on Donta Hall’s tip-in about five minutes into the second half.
Stone hit a 3 to pull Florida (13-3, 4-0) within 53-50 with 10:50 left, then hit another to put the Gators ahead 61-59 with 6:49 remaining. Alabama didn’t lead again.
Canyon Barry and Kasey Hill each had 13 points for the Gators, and Hill added five steals as Florida used its trap to get a 27-10 edge in points off turnovers.
“We didn’t respond well in practice yesterday to the same type of situation,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said about the trap. “We had to do it over and over again, our scout team gave us trouble, so we knew Florida was going to give us trouble.”
Hall had 12 points and eight rebounds for Alabama.
Florida has won six straight at Tuscaloosa and is 12-1 in the last 13 meetings between the teams.
Florida made five of its first six shots and then took advantage when the Crimson Tide totaled just one point over a seven-minute stretch in the first half.
Florida: Fresh off being named the SEC co-player of the week, Florida’s KeVaughn Allen was limited to six points and one rebound, although his dunk with 3:15 remaining essentially sealed the victory. Unless South Carolina can crack the Top 25 next week, the Gators likely won’t face another ranked opponent until Kentucky on Feb. 4.
Alabama: The Tide were looking for their first 3-0 start in SEC play since 1986-87.
THEY SAID IT
White: “I’d like to credit KeVaughn. He got seven looks, I’m not sure any of them were open. … He kept playing. He didn’t have that body language, he didn’t sulk. He kept defending at a high level. He took what the defense gave him. I know that he was probably pressing inside, feeling uncomfortable in that he’s been in a good groove recently. It’s a difficult thing to deal with.”
Florida: Looks to add to its seven-game winning streak by hosting Georgia on Saturday.
Alabama: Can remain near the top of the SEC with three straight games against teams with losing records in the league. It heads to LSU on Saturday and plays Missouri and Auburn next week.