Despite losing a tough overtime game in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the Florida Gators earned a comeback victory against UAB in the second game of the tournament.
Michael Frazier II scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds and Chris Chiozza added a career-high 13 points with six steals to lead the Florida Gators (3-2) to defeat the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (2-4) 56-47 at Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Florida closed the game on an 11-0 run in the last 3:25 of the second half to successfully close out the final minutes of a game this season.
“We’ve had some second halves where we play great defensively in the first half and the second half hasn’t been so great and its cost us coming down the stretch in some games,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I felt like today we did a better job of coming down the stretch defensively than maybe the last couple (games).”
The Gators finally were able to snag a victory on the comeback trail and despite shooting in the 30 percent range again from the floor, Florida was able to force UAB to commit 16 turnovers.
Chiozza was a factor and kept UAB fumbling the ball throughout the duration of the game, while he generated six steals in the first half alone, which almost met a school record of UF steals in a game with eight set back in 1989.
Entering the game Chiozza had only shot 1-of-5 from 3-point range on the season, but versus UAB he coverted 3-of-6 to shoot 50 percent from beyond the arc and from the field respectively to hand the Gators big offensive support.
“Before the game I had a good talk with coach Donovan and he just told me to give it everything I got, play hard,” the freshman Chiozza said. “I’m a defensive player and a playmaker so I just went out and he (Donovan) told me to play my game and do the best I can and that gave me the confidence to know he was going to let me do what I had to do.”
Florida was also sufficient in keeping the play alive. To grab 16 offensive rebounds compared to UAB’s four and would tag along 11 second chance points to UAB’s two was a difference overall.
For the first time season the Gators proved to close out a game fairly enough in order to walk away with a win as the Blazers went without a field goal in the last four minutes of regulation.
“We go through these lulls and stretches sometimes we get pretty good looks and we don’t make shots and struggled to score at times,” Donovan said. “Trying to get our guys to understand that we can overcome that if we defend.”
Florida will need to defend heavily against their next opponent in UNC that can score the ball and will test the Gators offense early on.
The third game of the Battle 4 Atlantis between No. 18 Florida and No. 5 UNC game will decide who’ll win fifth or sixth place in the tournament and is set for Friday at 8 p.m.