Gators Drop SEC Opener To Alabama

Florida got the jump on Alabama leading them at the half but quickly ran out of steam in the second, losing the last 20 minutes of the game 47-31 on their way to a 83-70 loss to the Crimson Tide. Florida had a few spurts of inspired basketball to keep the game somewhat in touch but ultimately the Gators struggled in too many facets of the game to keep relevant. All five Alabama starters had double figures in a comfortable win for them on the road in Gainesville, making it clear that the Gators have a lot of work to do if they want to compete at all with the top half of the SEC.

 

Futile Rebounding

 

Despite having the size advantage over Alabama the Gators couldn’t control the defensive glass whatsoever as the Tide had 20 offensive rebounds. With Florida only having 25 defensive rebounds on the night, it was almost a coin flip as to who would get the ball when Alabama missed a shot. Normally a team reliant on three-point makes, it didn’t matter to Alabama that they only shot 28% from deep against the Gators as when they missed they were getting the ball back most of the time which allowed them to get repeated chances at the rim. The Tide had 72 field goal attempts and 19 free throws, a gigantic number of shots that were generated by their offensive rebounding as well as…

 

Loose Ball Handling

 

As if the Gators weren’t giving Alabama enough extra possessions with the offensive rebound, they also turned the ball over a season high 20 times. Not only is this a lot of turnovers, but a lot of them were live ball turnovers. Alabama had 13 steals, which meant 13 opportunities to go down the floor on an odd-numbered break. They have thrived in these possessions all season and Wednesday’s game was no different as they turned these steals into layups on the other end. Between Alabama’s steals and offensive rebounds they had so many more shots than the Gators that it didn’t matter that they weren’t super efficient, and that’s why they were able to get a double digit win.

 

Off Night

 

Phlandrous Fleming, who has been one of Florida’s best players this season, was in tough after being out to COVID protocols and only practicing once in two weeks leading up to this game. He came off the bench and was 0-6 from the field for 0 points alongside 3 turnovers and unfortunately he wasn’t able to contribute on a night the Gators could have really used a spark. The fact Florida struggled so much without him able to contribute shows just how important he is as a player and how much he’ll be needed in big games this season.

 

Bright Spot

 

Colin Castelton had a solid game with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals, but it was CJ Felder who really impressed with a season high 12 points and 6 rebounds. Alabama made the game hectic and scrambled and that made a lot of Gators uncomfortable but CJ Felder thrived in that setting, throwing his huge body around and making an impact on both sides of the floor. His increased minute load was largely due to how much Florida struggled on the glass, and unfortunately he wasn’t able to make a huge difference there but he still provided physicality and energy while also going 2-3 from the three-point line.

 

Final Thoughts

 

This was a concerning loss for the Gators. Yes, it needs to be acknowledged that Alabama is a good basketball team. However–Florida struggled offensively, and they struggled in their pick and roll defense. Their press was also picked apart by Alabama, and it was almost comical how easy they made it look. Florida got hammered on the glass, and hammered in the turnover margin. To make matters even worse, Florida got embarrassed on a number of baseline out of bounds plays. This was a game that showed just how behind the Gators are from the upper echelon of the SEC, and that’s a concerning start to the SEC season. Perhaps Florida should be given some slack given the fact they haven’t played a game for two weeks and had a COVID stoppage, but as it stands, with the early season losses the Gators took they haven’t earned themselves the benefit of the doubt.

 

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. Maybe one game where White (as the rest of the Florida fans can easily see) sees us getting outrebounded as lopsidedly as we did last night, he will put in a large lineup of Castleton, Jitoboh, Duraji, Felder, or Fleming and Appleby. With that lineup, the front line should be able to box out the wiry players and even the bulky players of opponents. The fact that this is the second year of Castleon, Jitoboh, and Duraji playing on the same squad, and NOT ONCE, NOT ONCE, has White tried to go big with the lineup, raises questions as to his innovativeness, and more, his appreciation for basic basketball strategy.

    The claim that we lose offensive firepower with that lineup is completely debunked by the almost 10 minutes in the second half that it took us to even score a field goal against Alabama with the small lineup that White is obviously obsessed with. I find it hard to believe that with Duraji not having to focus on trying to rebound misses, and defenses having to account for Felder or Fleming from outside or as slashers, that such a lineup would EVER go 10 minutes without scoring a FG. Yet game after game after game we see these tiny lineups that White insists year after year are the best option for his team. Meanwhile, teams like Alabama and FSU who are playing larger lineups year in and year out are winning conference tournaments, conference championships, and going deeper into the NCAA tournament rather than backing in which is Mike White’s penchant.