The No. 6 Florida Gators (16-2, 5-0 SEC) never trailed on Thursday evening , walking out of the Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, AL with a 68-62 road victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-10, 2-3 SEC)
Florida improved to 8-2 in single-digit decisions this season and ended Alabama’s 14-game home winning streak in the process.
The Gators won their 10th-straight game and picked up a win for the 15th time in their last 16 contests. OnlyGators.com breaks it down with seven quick-hitters:
It was over when: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin drained two free throws with 1:54 remaining, extending Florida’s lead to nine points – one short of a game-high. He then connected on two more with 25.9 seconds to go, helping UF keep a three-basket lead. Wilbekin finished with 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting with seven of his attempts and both of his makes coming from downtown.
Prominent player: The Gators decided to shoot over the top of the Crimson Tide’s zone, so sophomore guard Michael Frazier took even more threes than normal. His night ended with a team-high 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting (all from beyond the arc), three assists and two rebounds.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Perfect plays: With 4.6 seconds left until the break, Frazier drained a corner three and was fouled on the shot attempt. He made the free throw to complete the four-point play and spot the Gators a seven-point lead at halftime.
Later, Florida led by seven with three minutes to play but turned the ball over under its own basket. Alabama immediately took off on a fastbreak, but senior forward Casey Prather chased down G Trevor Releford, blocking his layup attempt at the rim to save a potentially momentum-changing score. Prather found a way to chip in 14 points, grab six boards and pick up a career-high three blocks.
Standout stat: UF entered Thursday’s game not having attempted more than 26 three-pointers in a single contest. The Gators hit that mark with 9:28 left in the game, shooting a total of 28 triples by the time the final buzzer sounded. Considering Florida averaged just 5.8 makes and 16.1 attempts per game this season, the effort to score from downtown on Thursday night was especially notable.
“What was open was from the perimeter,” explained head coach Billy Donovan. “We made some shots, we moved the basketball pretty well, we had a fairly decent number of assists, we didn’t turn it over a lot. … We didn’t shoot an off-the-chart percentage, but we did make 10 threes and that helped us against the zone.”
What it means: The Gators won another league road game with Donovan improving to 7-0 all-time against former UF assistant Anthony Grant. “I don’t like it. I don’t like it. Obviously as a coach, he’s one of my best friends. Without him, our program probably doesn’t experience two national championships and conference championships. … Any time you play against a really, really close friend that you respect and admire and have a close relationship with, in this situation, it’s always difficult.”
The win was also No. 100 for the senior class. “They’ve been a great group,” said Donovan. “Those guys have been, they’ve been through the wars. They’ve been scared; they’ve been wounded. They’ve achieved a lot of different things; they’ve done a lot of great things. I’m really proud of them, really happy with them. … For those guys to win 100 games and we’ve just maybe passed the halfway point of this season, I think speaks volumes of how successful those guys have been since they’ve been here.”
Next up: Florida returns home to host Tennessee on Saturday at 4 p.m. in a game that will air live on ESPN. The Gators have lost three-straight games to the Vols, not having beaten their SEC East rival since Feb. 12, 2011.
Mechanical malfunction: Due to a problem with its plane, Florida will not arrive back in Gainesville, FL until noon on Friday. That will give the Gators just 28 hours to rest, practice and prepare for their next game (see above).