By: Jenna Ladd
With 21 seconds left in a tie game, Dorian Finney-Smith quiets the home Alabama crowd with a slam-dunk, giving the Florida Gators their ninth consecutive win over the Crimson Tide, 52-50 on Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Coming off a three-game losing streak, the Gators were desperate to stay afloat in the Southeastern Conference. With both teams coming in with a record of 3-3 in conference play, one was guaranteed to pull in front of the other.
Despite Finney-Smith making the game-winning basket, it was the only time that he put points up on the board all night. The leading scorer for the Gators was Eli Carter, who contributed 13 points before suffering a nose injury that put him out for the majority of the second half. Not far behind Carter was Chris Walker, who made a total of six baskets for 12 points.
In the first half, Alabama started off scoring the first basket of the game, but their lead did not last for long. Kasey Hill shot off a trey, followed by another 3-point basket from Carter, giving Florida a 6-2 lead over Alabama.
This is when the Crimson Tide started to look messy. Their offensive spacing was out of whack and a lack of communication was prevalent with their lack of ball control. With 10:11 left in the first half, Alabama had already given up seven turnovers.
Florida began to pick up momentum and thrive off of the success that they were seeing, resulting in the Gators having one of their strongest defensive performances in a while. Florida would not allow Alabama to penetrate the paint easily, and they refused to give up easy paths to the basket.
Alabama started the game off with the first two points but that would be their only lead od the game. Florida tried to take the opportunities handed to them by a struggling Crimson Tide, however they had the chance to pull away stronger than they did.
By halftime Florida had a 13-point lead over Alabama with a score of 35-22. In the first frame, Alabama had more rebounds and turnovers than field goals, shooting a low 36.4 percent. Meanwhile, Florida shot 50% in field goals and made 11 of their 35 points off of turnovers.
When the teams returned from the locker rooms for the second half of the game, Florida was expecting Alabama to take a run to get back into the game. And the Crimson Tide did not disappoint; they took a 9-2 run over the Gators that ended with 9:30 on the clock with a score of 39-36, closing in on Florida’s lead.
In less than two minutes the score was tied up for the first time at 41 with 7:40 left to play. Florida pulled away from the tie with a trey by 5-foot-9 freshman Chris Chiozza.
The Gators had another advantage when Ricky Tarrant, who put up 13 points for Alabama, briefly left the game due to a right ankle injury. In his absence, the Crimson Tide applied full-court pressure in an attempt to keep Florida from pulling away any more.
However, the score bounced back-and-forth before ending up in a tie once again at 50 with just over two minutes left. No more points were scored until Finney-Smith’s game-deciding dunk with a mere 21 seconds left on the clock that left the final score of the game at 52-50.
The Florida Gators now stand with a record of 11-9, 4-3 SEC as they head into their next game at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-4, 5-2 SEC). Tip-off will be at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 31 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.