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February 14, 2012
Florida beats Alabama, secures 20 win season
Playing Alabama without its two biggest stars, No. 14 Florida had no problem making up for its own missing players.
Patric Young took advantage of the Crimson Tide's suspension-depleted frontcourt with 19 points and the Gators won 61-52 Tuesday night.
Florida coach Billy Donovan could only give his team so much credit for surviving without the injured Will Yeguete (concussion) and Mike Rosario (bruised hip) when the Tide didn't have JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell.
"It was an ugly game in a lot of respects, but let's also realize, too, that Alabama was playing without their two leading scorers," Donovan said. "We had two guys out, they had two guys out."
The impacts clearly weren't equal.
The Gators (20-6, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) scored the first 16 points of the second half to turn a tie score into a comfortable win after losing two straight games.
The Tide (16-9, 5-6) has lost two in a row without its top two scorers and rebounders, who are on indefinite suspension. Guards Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele did rejoin the team and the starting lineup after being held out for the LSU game.
"We were prepared for Florida," Steele said. "Everything that happened this past weekend, we put it behind us and we moved on."
Tide coach Anthony Grant said he hasn't made a decision on the status of Green and Mitchell for Saturday's game with Tennessee.
"In practice, we've got to go to work," Grant said. "We've got to get better as a team. We've got to make sure that our guys understand that. They can face reality. We're getting hit in the face with reality right now. How do we respond to that?
"I expect that we have guys that are fighters."
Young was hard to stop inside for the Tide in the 22 minutes he was on the court. He scored 12 in the second half despite heading to the bench with four fouls halfway through and fouling out late. He finished 9 for 12 from the field. Erik Murphy and Brad Beal scored 14 points apiece. Murphy made 4 of 7 3-pointers while Beal had eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
Erving Walker had seven assists to break Ronnie Montgomery's Florida career record of 503 set from 1985-88.
Steele led Alabama with 11 points. Charles Hankerson added nine points while Releford scored eight, all in the first half, and had three steals.
The Tide had to turn to little-used big men Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye after freshman starter Nick Jacobs drew two quick fouls. Jacobs only played seven minutes, and Grant made another statement.
"In the second half, I didn't think that he came out with the energy that he needs to, so some other guys got some opportunities," the coach said. He said Jacobs took a shot to the mouth in practice this week and visited the dentist Tuesday morning.
It proved a post mismatch without him, but the Gators also forced 18 turnovers, including some on errant passes and miscommunications. The 6-foot-5 Levi Randolph helped Alabama to a 34-32 rebounding edge with nine boards.
The Gators came out firing in the second half.
Murphy opened with a 3-pointer and Young hit four baskets inside, including a pair of dunks during the Gators' 5-minute surge that put them up 42-26 and forced Grant to burn a pair of timeouts against his mentor and former boss at Florida, Donovan.
Florida started the half 7-of-8 shooting while Alabama missed its first 10 shots after the Gators switched to a zone defense. The Tide couldn't climb back to within single digits until the game's final basket.
"At halftime we talked about coming out with great energy," Young said. "I thought I had an opportunity to give our team some juice. I was able to sprint out and teammates were able to find me and I was able to finish the plays."
Steele hit Alabama's first basket of the half with 11 minutes left.
The Gators didn't need a big game from leading scorer Kenny Boynton, who finished with nine points, but didn't have a field goal in the first 25 minutes.
"I felt fairly decent going into the half because Walker and Boynton were 0 for 8 from the field," Donovan said. "I thought Alabama struggling from the field to start the second half enabled us to kind of get on a big run."
The SEC's top scoring team also didn't need to approach its 78.8-point average either against a Tide team that is second in the league in scoring defense, but had few consistent scoring threats left.
Releford and Murphy traded 3-pointers late in the first half and the teams went into the locker room tied at 26-26, the lowest scoring first half of the season for the Gators.
Florida, coming off losses to Kentucky and Tennessee, heated up for the final 20 minutes by making half its shots.
Alabama finished just 4 of 16 from 3-point range and 12 of 24 from the free throw line. Yet another teaching point for Grant.
"That's just a lesson that you get in the SEC, that you cannot rely on how your offense is going to provide your energy," he said.
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