Complete Effort By Gators Leads to 71-53 Victory

In what was likely their most complete performance of the season the Gators controlled the Alabama Crimson Tide on their way to a 71-53 win on a day where they scored the first bucket of the game and lead all the way to the final buzzer, never allowing the home Tide to come back. Andrew Nembhard had far and away his best offensive game of the season with 21 points on 9-9 shooting, getting it done from all the way from the 3-point line to the inside at the rim. Kira Lewis did give the Gators some fits at times with 14 points but it wasn’t enough to keep up with a Florida team that was playing connected on both ends of the floor. This win marks the Gators’ second quadrant one victory of the season and keeps their NCAA Tournament hopes alive for another day.

Dictating Pace

Florida is a team that wants to play slow and Alabama is a team that wants to play fast. When two teams with contrasting styles match up it’s usually the team that can dictate tempo that wins and today that was the Gators who turned this into a half court game and didn’t ever allow the Tide’s potent transition offense to get going. A lot of this was due to the Gators not turning the ball over (only 8 times) and scoring efficiently, not allowing long rebounds to turn into run-outs. Florida is going to have to set the tempo in every game they play to give themselves the best chance at winning and they definitely did it today against a team that was really frustrated by it.

Complete Effort

This was probably the most well-rounded game of the season for the Gators and it shows in the percentages. They shot 54% on offense (despite only shooting 31.6% from three) and only allowed Alabama to shoot 44.2%, and those solid efficiency numbers on both sides of the ball are why the Gators won this game comfortably. Florida has had games this year when their defense has been solid and they’ve had games where their offense has clicked but they haven’t really had games when both were firing at once and late in the season is as good a time as any as the Gators try to claw their way into the NCAA Tournament picture.

Battle On The Boards

Alabama is a team that lives on the offensive glass and the Gators totally limited that today, actually beating the Crimson Tide +4 in the rebounding category. Not allowing Alabama many second chance opportunities inside they took away one of the ways the Tide have been bullying opponents and that really stalled their offense. Keyontae Johnson (13 rebounds) almost singlehandedly was the king of the glass today as he was in on every rebound on both sides of the floor. Considering he also added 14 points I think he was probably the most valuable Gator today, though Nembhard’s 21 points could certainly make him deserving of this as well.

On The Mend

Noah Locke has been fighting a lower body injury and even though he still played a full workload of 26 minutes today he didn’t seem right, especially on offense where he was held without a field goal. He got some good looks from three but his jump shot just doesn’t look the same and it’s clear something isn’t right with him. The other day in a press conference Andrew Nembhard referred to Locke as a “warrior” and that was apparent today as even though his shots weren’t falling he grinded on defense and made himself valuable even with his best skill (shot making) not available to him.

Final Thoughts

This was an outstanding win for the Gators as they executed about as well as they have all season on offense despite one of their best scorers in Noah Locke rendered ineffective while also looking really good defensively. This was a loss the Gators had to avoid and a win they really needed to keep their March Madness dreams alive and they got it in tremendous fashion. This should be a confidence building game and it’s hopefully something they can build

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Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.