BY: Jenna Ladd
Florida lives to see another day in the SEC Tournament after defeating Alabama 69-61 on Tuesday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee. They will take on the Kentucky Wildcats for the third time this season in their next game on Friday, March 13 at 1 p.m.
Despite the Gators making the first basket of the game, neither team was able to pull away from the other. It’s a cliché to say, but, that the game could have easily gone either way.
With Michael Frazier back on the court for his second game after missing 7 due to a high ankle sprain, Gator fans were optimistic of how their former leading scorer would perform. However, he struggled to find his momentum and was only able to put up five points.
The star of this game was easily Dorian Finney-Smith who raked in 11 rebounds and scored 23 points. Yet, even though there was a star player, this may have been one of the most collective efforts we have seen all season from the Gators.
Halfway through the first half of the game, the future for the Gators in the SEC Tournament was looking dim as the Crimson Tide held on to the lead. That is, until Florida tied the score with 7:37 left in the half after back-to-back treys by Eli Carter and a tip-in by Finney-Smith.
From there, the score waivered within two points or less until the Gators were able to pull away with three free throws and a three-pointer by Dorian to lock in a six-point lead with just 1:32 left before halftime. Alabama managed to sneak in two free throws before the half was over, leaving the score at 33-29.
When the teams returned from the locker rooms to play the second half of the game, Alabama came out strong with two baskets in a row within the first two minutes. This resulted in the sixth and final tie of the game at 33.
With the Crimson Tide starting to roll, Florida’s players were determined to pull away once and for all and dished back a 7-0 run ending at 40-33 with 15:23 left on the clock.
Alabama was never truly able to recover from that run, and never saw another lead or even a tie. The closest they were able to get was within three points, but the Gators quickly shut that down with back-to-back three-pointers by Finney-Smith and Devin Robinson.
Not only were the Gators producing more on the offensive side of the ball, but they also had strong defensive pressure. The pressure they put on forced nine turnovers that made for 11 points from those Alabama slip-ups. That, combined with the fact that they managed to foul out two of the Tide’s double-digit scorers – Rodney Cooper and Retin Obasohan – made this win a little easier for them.
The celebration from this win will not be long one, as they get ready to face the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats in less than 24 hours. This is the same team that the Gators just lost to six days ago. So in order to come out and progress past this game in the tournament, Florida will have to play collectively and with a fighting competitive spirit to make it through.