Florida escapes Alabama in SEC Tournament

Despite never trailing in the game, the No. 19/22 Florida Gators (23-9, 11-6 SEC) coughed up a number of leads to the Alabama Crimson Tide (21-11, 9-8 SEC) on Friday afternoon but found a way to pull out a 66-63 victory and advance to the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Gators, held to 38.5 percent shooting from the field, were outrebounded 30-25 by the Crimson Tide but managed to force 10 turnovers while only coughing up the ball five times. UF’s 10 makes from three-point range were the difference in the contest even though UA connected on four more baskets over the duration of the game.

Florida outscored Alabama 7-1 to start, but the Gators followed up their hot start by going scoreless for 5:22 and allowing the Crimson Tide to tie things up by scoring six-straight points in that stretch.

UF again jumped ahead of UA by six thanks to an 8-2 run including two threes by freshman guard Bradley Beal, but Florida suffered another scoring drought (this time for 3:08) and let Alabama tie things up again at 15 all with 6:36 left in the opening half.

The Gators went back up six as Beal scored five-straight points including his third trey of the half with 2:57 remaining, but a buzzer-beating three by Crimson Tide G Levi Randolph cut their lead to just two points at the break.

Beal and junior forward Erik Murphy combined to score 19 of Florida’s 26 first-half points while the team as a whole shot just 32 percent (8-of-25) from the field and 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from downtown.

Alabama opened up the second half with a fast break dunk to tie the game at 26. Florida answered quickly, retaking their lead and extending it to a game-high 12 points with an impressive 17-5 scoring stretch.

The Crimson Tide refused to go down without a fight though, responding by taking off on a 16-4 run to tie the game at 49 as the Gators went scoreless for 3:47.

Florida and Alabama battled back-and-forth for the duration of the contest. The Gators jumped ahead seven points after junior G Kenny Boynton nailed a three with less than two minutes to play, but the Crimson Tide scored five-straight and used a trey by G Trevor Lacey to cut UF’s lead to two with 1:07 to go.

A turnover by Walker, who drove the lane and appeared to slip on a wet spot and travel, gave UA the ball back with 41.4 seconds left. Alabama F JaMychal Green missed the ensuing shot but got fouled and hit the first of two free throws before missing the second and giving the ball back to Florida. Boynton was fouled on the other end; he made both free throws to put the Gators ahead three points, a margin UF would retain over the final 9.8 seconds as Lacey missed what would have been a game-tying three at the buzzer.

Beal led the way for Florida with team-highs in points (16), rebounds (seven) and assists (five). He went 3-for-4 from downtown to start the game but did not hit a single bucket in the second half even though he was an efficient 7-for-8 from the free throw line. Murphy was the team’s most efficient player, scoring 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting despite hitting just one trey. He also had three boards and a game-high three blocks.

Boynton added 14 points, four rebounds, two dimes and two steals. Sophomore center Patric Young, coming back down to earth after a breakout game against Kentucky, scored six points and grabbed five boards but fouled out in the waning minutes.

Green was the player of the game even in a losing effort for Alabama, posting a double-double with game-highs in points (22) and rebounds (10). The Crimson Tide as a team hit 53.3 percent of their shots from the floor.

The Gators’ victory celebration will be short-lived as Florida must turn around and try to avoid a three-game season sweep at the hands of No. 1 Kentucky, which they will take on in semifinal action on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will air live nationally on ABC.

Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

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Florida looking to gain momentum at Alabama

Coming off a pair of tough losses to the concensus No. 1 team in the country Kentucky and an underrated Tennessee team, the newly-minted No. 12/14 Florida Gators are looking to right the ship on Tuesday when they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, AL. With both squads facing a number of questions heading into the contest, Florida head coach Billy Donovan and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant met with the media Monday to discuss their programs and the upcoming game.

INJURIES, SUSPENSIONS RAVAGING LINEUPS

The Gators and Crimson Tide will each be without two players for Tuesday’s game though their absences will occur for vastly different reasons. Florida sophomore forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) will miss the game with injuries, while Alabama Fs JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell are out of action due to suspension.

UF and UA will also get some players back for the showdown. Redshirt freshman F Cody Larson (illness) returns at less than 100 percent for the Gators, while the Crimson tide will welcome back Gs Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele from two more suspensions handed down by Grant.

The losses will severely hurt both teams. Florida loses their best defender and rebounder in Yeguete as well as a solid bench scorer in Rosario, and Alabama will be without their top two leaders in scoring and rebounding as the duo of Green and Mitchell average a combined 27.2 points and 14.2 boards per game.

Additionally information and thoughts from the coaches on the injuries and suspensions are available in the “notes and quotes” section at the end of this post.”

FRONTCOURT SITUATION “DIRE” FOR FLORIDA

With Yeguete injured and out indefinitely, sophomore center Patric Young regressing and junior F Erik Murphy not necessarily a true post player, Donovan agreed with a reporter’s assessment that the Gators’ backcourt is in need of major help.

“We’re going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively,” he said. “Certainly going into Alabama without Will being there, there’s a tremendous void there for us defensively at the basket. Alabama […] is a very big, enormous team up front. Patric certainly logged way too many minutes in the Tennessee game, he played 36. We’re going to have to look at playing smaller at certain times.

“We may have to look at playing Patric and Murphy together some, not together some. We’re probably going to have to look at moving Casey Prather a little bit more toward the power forward spot. Our presence at the basket both offensively and defensively is hurt there with Will [out of action] because I think Will has proven at least through this first part of the SEC and some of the higher level competition that we’ve played … even though he may not be 6’10”, he still is a problem out there defensively. He can hold his own around the basket.”

HISTORY AND STREAKS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 73-58 though the Gators have a 15-5 winning advantage against the Crimson Tide since Donovan took over UF’s program. Donovan is 2-0 against Grant since his former assistant took the UA job.
» All five of Florida’s normal starters are averaging double figures in scoring.
» The Gators have made 10+ three-pointers in 17 of 25 games this year, a season-high mark under Donovan.
» Florida has made a three in 676 consecutive games dating back to Jan. 1992.
» The Gators are 284-38 since 1988-89 when holding opponents under 70 points.
» Florida is one victory away from winning 20+ games for the 14th consecutive season, which is currently the longest active streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.

WALKER CLIMBING UP ALL-TIME LISTS

Senior point guard Erving Walker is steadily making his way up a number of Florida’s career lists. Below are some of the marks he is about to pass in UF’s record books.

» Assists: Walker (498) can move into No. 1 all-time with six dimes, passing Ronnie Montgomery (503).
» Minutes: Walker (3,966) moved into No. 2 all-time in time on the court, passing Chandler Parsons (3,964) on Saturday.
» Three-pointers made: Walker (265) can move into No. 3 all-time with three treys, passing Anthony Roberson (267).
» Scoring: Walker (1,629) can move into No. 4 all-time with 49 points, passing Stacey Poole (1,678).
» Free throws made: Walker (400) can move into No. 7 all-time with 12 makes from the charity stripe, passing Dan Cross (411).
» Free throws attempted: Walker (507) can move into No. 9 all-time with eight foul shots, passing David Lee (514).
» Walker is near the top 10 all-time in games started (three away) and steals (six away).

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan does not know when Yeguete will be back and cautioned that he could be out for a while after only passing two of five required concussion tests as conducted by team doctors. “I’m concerned enough,” he said of Yeguete’s second concussion (Ohio State) this season. “There’s protocol that the trainer and the medical staff have to go through as it relates to conclusions. […] The concussion issues right now because of football have been addressed at certainly a very heightened level. There is this protocol we have to go through regardless of how Will is feeling. […] I don’t think he’s having any symptoms where he’s sick or dizzy all the time. He feels OK, but he’s not passing these tests. […] He’s way off from there right now. He’s way off. Will’s a tough kid. If it was up to him, he would probably want to go play, but we can’t risk his health and those things.”

» The single Florida player likely to benefit the most from Yeguete’s absence is Prather, who will see much more time on the court. Donovan badly wants for Prather to succeed but believes some of his failings are from over thinking and not just going out and playing basketball. “He has never ever once – and I’ve got unbelievable respect for him – he’s never had a bad attitude,” he said. “He comes to practice every day and works. He puts extra time in. he deserves to play well. He’s another guy where he wants to do so well so bad that sometimes he can go in with preconceived notions of how he’s going to play. […] He’s got to go in and play the game and read what’s going on. He’s got to get better at reading situations and not getting so bogged down mentally at wanting to do so well.”

» Grant is supremely disappointed in his players and believes he should not have to deal with behavioral issues like the ones he suspended them for (but would not disclose) at this point in their careers. However, he takes full responsibility for their failings and hopes his team can use these mistakes as a learning experience going forward. “The main thing right now is for our guys to understand the importance of making good decisions and understanding the consequences when you make poor decisions and then moving on and growing from there and learning from that,” he said. “I’m the leader. It’s my team. I certainly feel like I’ve got responsibility to them as individuals, to their families, to our program, to this university. Obviously it’s difficult when you have to call your bosses and let them know the situation like that and obviously the impact that has on the image of our program and the image of this university. That’s my responsibility as a coach to make sure those things are limited or prevented as much as possible.”

» Donovan understands what Grant is going through and fully supports his friend and colleague with the idea that sometimes tough decisions and sacrifices have to be made in the short term for major long term gains to occur. “The one thing I do know is I know Anthony Grant about as well as anybody. He is a guy that has got incredible integrity and character and knows exactly the way he wants his program run, what he’s going to do,” he said. “I really believe that in order to win big you got to be prepared to lose big. Anthony’s attitude is that he’s not going to be the kind for guy who is going to plug holes in a leaking ship. He’s not going to plug it because eventually that stuff – at some point – is going to rear its head and it’s going to bite you at some point. There’s a certain way Anthony wants to go about his team playing, what they want to do every single day in practice, how they want to conduct themselves. The easiest thing I think a lot of times in coaching is to look the other way. But I don’t think your team can fully maximize its fullest potential until you as a coach are prepared to lose big. By Anthony doing that, I think he showed his team that he’s prepared to lose big because he wants to win big and there’s a certain way you have to go about winning big and these things that are going on are not going to help us win big.”

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Florida, Alabama to be shorthanded on Tuesday

With both teams looking to rebound from tough losses, the No. 7/8 Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide are set to square off Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, AL though it appears as if neither team will go into the game at full strength.

Florida announced Sunday evening that sophomore forward Will Yeguete (concussion) and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario (hip pointer) will both miss Tuesday’s tilt.

Yeguete, who banged his head into the stanchion underneath the basket while going up for a block against Tennessee on Saturday, received 8-10 stitches for a cut above his eye and failed concussion tests in the locker room. He was unconscious on the court and later diagnosed with his second concussion this season (at Ohio State).

Unlike Yeguete, Rosario did not even participate in Saturday’s contest after suffering a hip pointer during practice last week. The Gators were also without redshirt freshman F Cody Larson (illness) against Tennessee, but he will be healthy enough to travel with the team and come off the bench against the Crimson Tide.

Though Yeguete and Rosario are both bench players for Florida, the former has earned spot starts and extensive playing time in the front court while the latter has been a scoring spark for the Gators all season long. Yeguete is averaging 4.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in 22.0 minutes, while Rosario scores 7.9 points and shooting 38.0 percent from downtown in 16.0 minutes per game on average.

Alabama is even worse off than their upcoming opponent with up to four players set to miss the game due to suspension. Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant suspended starting F Tony Mitchell indefinitely on Monday for “conduct detrimental to the team” that occurred over a period of time.

He followed that up by ruling Saturday that three more Alabama players – F JaMychal Green, G Trevor Releford and G Andrew Steele – would also be suspended indefinitely for violations of team rules.

“We are extremely disappointed in the choices and decisions made by these young men that has led to this suspension,” Grant said in a statement released by the school. “Talent is a gift, but character is a choice. The consequences of their choices have negatively impacted them as individuals and the people that love and support them. Our hope is that they will be mature enough to accept responsibility for their actions and place a higher value on their character.”

Greene, the Crimson Tide’s scoring and rebounding leader with 14.1 points and 7.2 boards per game, is the most impactful of the four suspensions though all will undoubtedly affect the team’s ability to perform at a high level going forward.

Florida and Alabama tip off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday live on ESPN.

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No. 14 Florida vs. Alabama Gameday (Senior Day)

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 12,000]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPNU
Online Video: N/A
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 14 FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 22-6 (11-3 SEC) Record: 19-9 (11-3 SEC)
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6; O/U 125.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 73-59, but the Gators have beat the Crimson Tide in 15 of the last 18 contests dating back to 1999. Florida defeated Alabama 66-65 in Tuscaloosa last season, making Donovan 16-5 all-time against the Crimson Tide (8-0 at home).
» The Gators are 4-1 against the SEC West this season after going an undefeated 6-0 against the division last year.
» Florida has won 14 of its last 17 games with 12 victories against RPI top 100 teams; their six-game winning streak was snapped Saturday by Kentucky.
» Alabama has also won 14 of its last 17 games and has only allowed six opponents to score more than 60 points over that stretch.
» UF and UA, both No. 1 seeds in the 2011 SEC Tournament, are squaring off Tuesday with the victor winning the overall SEC regular season title.
» The Gators are 19-1 (8-0 SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida is 13-3 at home this year and can reach 14 wins in the O’Dome for the seventh time in Donovan’s 15-year UF career.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 73.6 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last six games.
» Florida is 9-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,345 points) with 15 points on Saturday. He is also one of only three active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 750 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, with 195 three-pointers, is sixth all-time at UF. He is three treys away from moving into the top five.
» Florida has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» The Crimson Tide are led by Grant, a former assistant under Donovan, who has compiled a 112-49 mark in five years as a head coach (36-24 at current job).
» Florida bests Alabama in all four major national statistical categories. The Gators top the Crimson Tide in points per game 70.8-67.6 (120th-214th), rebounds per game 37.8-37.2 (46th-65th), assists per game 13.8-12.9 (115th-176th) and field goal percentage .457-.452 (80th-104th). Alabama is one of the few teams in the SEC that plays better defense than Florida, limiting opponents to 58.2 points and .373 shooting on the season (vs. 62.2 and .423). UF ranks 12th in RPI (.6333) and eighth in strength of schedule nationally compared to UA being 87th (.5487) and 175th, respectively.

SENIOR DAY

The Gators’ 2010-11 senior class will graduate with a (as of press time) 92-42 all-time record including a SEC East title and two NCAA Tournament appearances. Allen, who has suffered from chronic knee problems, has not played since April 1, 2008 and will depart the program one year early. Macklin was around for 43 of those wins, joining the team as a transfer and only playing two seasons after redshirting. Parsons is in the top 20 in school history in scoring, and Tyus was just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals. Parsons also won SEC Player of the Week and Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week in his senior season.

* F Adam Allen – #14 – Milton, Fla. [redshirt junior]
Career at UF (2007-08): 144 points, 29 rebounds, 15 assists, six steals, three blocks

* C Vernon Macklin – #32 – Portsmouth, Va. [redshirt senior]
Career at UF (2009-11): 673 points, 355 rebounds, 46 assists, 29 steals, 52 blocks

* F Chandler Parsons – #25 – Casselberry, Fla. [senior]
Career at UF (2007-11): 1,345 points, 787 rebounds, 303 assists, 121 steals, 37 blocks

* F Alex Tyus – #23 – St. Louis, Mo. [senior]
Career at UF (2007-11): 1,243 points, 692 rebounds, 72 assists, 51 steals, 107 blocks

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…who is back to averaging double-digit points (11.1) while leading the Gators with 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (787), No. 3 in points (1,345) and assists (303) and No. 4 steals (121). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has six this year.
» Walker…who is leading his team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.374). Walker also leads Florida in turnovers (69) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 56.9 percent from the floor this season as a starter with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but is struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is only hitting 37.0 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 13.5 points per game and makes a team-high 83.5 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 90.6 percent from the line (48-of-53) in SEC play.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.25:1), while Young averages 3.2 points and 3.4 boards.
» Alabama Fs JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell who each shoot better than .500 from the floor while averaging nearly 16 points and seven boards per game. The duo is responsible for the vast majority of the Crimson Tide’s points and rebounds this season.

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Walker floats Gators to 66-65 win over Tide

It took senior forward Dan Werner strongly batting away an in bounds toss with 3.5 seconds remaining on the clock to propel the Florida Gators (16-6, 5-3 SEC) to a 66-65 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-9, 3-5 SEC) on the road at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Though Werner made a heads-up play in the final seconds, he preceded it with a major mistake that could have cost his team the game. The Gators were only up four with 1:09 remaining in the game when he inexplicably fouled Crimson Tide guard Anthony Brock to allow Alabama to continue its 9-2 run and cut Florida’s lead to one. A runner by G Mikhail Torrance gave the Tide a 65-64 lead with only 44 seconds left, but a clutch floater by Gators sophomore point guard Erving Walker with nine tickets left on the clock ended up being the game-winning basket.

Read the rest of OGGOA’s Florida at Alabama game story after the jump!
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Gameday: Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide

Location: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, AL [Capacity: 15,316]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (EST)

TV: ESPNU
Online: ESPN360

Florida Gators Alabama Crimson Tide
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 15-6, 4-3 SEC Record: 13-8, 3-4 SEC
Division: SEC East Division: SEC West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida +2.5, O/U 128.5

KEEP AN EYE ON…
-The dynamic backcourt of…sophomore point guard Erving Walker and freshman guard Kenny Boynton who are averaging 33.7 points and 8.4 assists per game in SEC play this season.
– Speaking of Walker and Boynton…they have hit 40 of the Gators’ 49 treys in SEC play, and Walker is shooting 55.8 percent (24-of-43) from downtown in conference action.
– Junior forward Alex Tyus…who is dominating the front court, averaging 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds over the last 12 contests. He has hit double figures in 12 straight games and scored 15+ in seven of those 12.
– Double-digit scoring by Vernon Macklin…Florida is 10-1 when the redshirt junior transfer center does so.
– Alabama sophomore forward JaMychal Green leads the team with 7.2 boards per game while also contributing 14.6 points. Senior guard Mikhail Torrance is tops on the team with 15.1 points per game.

STREAKS:
– Alabama leads the all-time series against Florida 73-56; however, the Gators have prevailed in 14 of the last 17 meetings.
– The Gators are 15-5 against the Crimson Tide under head coach Billy Donovan and won the last time they visited Coleman Coliseum on Jan. 8, 2008.
– Donovan’s long-time assistant, Anthony Grant, is Alabama’s new head coach; the two will be going head-to-head for the first time.
– The Gators ended a four-game winning streak on Sunday with a loss to No. 14 Tennessee. It was their longest in SEC play since 2007.
– Allowing 95 and 89 points to its first to SEC opponents, the Gators have held teams to 62.4 points per game over the last five. Florida is 10-1 this season when holding opponents to 60 points or less and 120-2 all-time under Donovan.
– The Gators have hit at least one three-pointer In 599 consecutive games.
– The Crimson Tide have upset wins over then-No. 15 Michigan and then-No. 23 Mississippi State this season.
– As a team, Alabama is averaging 68.4 points per game while holding opponents to just 31.7 percent shooting from three-point range.

Read OGGOA’s Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide preview after the jump!
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