Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators finish wild 2OT comeback to beat Alabama

By Adam Silverstein
January 4, 2020
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators finish wild 2OT comeback to beat Alabama
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Trailing by a season-high 21 points late in the first half, it appeared as if Florida Gators basketball was on its way to getting blown out in its SEC home opener at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. Instead, the Gators (9-5) battled back to tie their largest halftime comeback at home in program history to complete a 104-98 double-overtime win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-6).

What went down on Saturday night, and how did Florida pull off such a stunning turnaround on its home court? Keep on reading for a full breakdown with takeaways from the team’s latest victory.

It was over when … freshman guard Scottie Lewis and sophomore point guard Andrew Nembhard combined to hit four clutch free throws in the final minute to put the Gators ahead 102-98 on the Crimson Tide with 24.8 seconds to play. Alabama missed its ensuing basket, and Florida added two more free throws by redshirt senior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. to pick up its six-point victory.

Second half shocker: The Gators trailed by a season-high 21 points with 2:19 left until halftime until they decided they had enough. Florida authored a 13-0 run spanning the half with back-to-back threes to open the second period, cutting its deficit down to eight points. From there, the Gators chipped away. A three-pointer from sophomore F Keyontae Johnson cut it to 80-75 with 1:55 to play, two free throws from Nembhard reduced it to 81-78 with 37 seconds left, and a Blackshear triple made it 83-81 with 24 seconds remaining. The comeback to tie the game was officially completed with a steal and layup from sophomore G Noah Locke inside of 17 seconds, tying the game at 83 and forcing overtime.

A Nembhard layup in overtime put Florida ahead by three, but a bouncing triple from Alabama G John Petty Jr. tied the game and forced the second overtime. The Gators outscored the Crimson Tide 12-6 in the second OT period with Blackshear scoring half his team’s points.

Exceptional efforts: Dealer’s choice here: the high scorer or one of the three players with triple doubles? Nembhard finished with a career-high 25 points, hitting only 8-of-19 shots and 1-of-5 threes but 8-of-9 free throws to go along with five assists. Blackshear was stellar with another double-double (24 points, 16 rebounds), hitting 10-of-11 gimmies. Lewis (17 points, 10 boards) and Johnson (10 points, 12 boards) also finished with double-doubles, combining to go 8-of-8 from the line. Locke also posted 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, hitting 2-of-5 from long range. Those five players combined to score 94 of Florida’s 104 points.

Odds and ends: After going down 21, Florida outscored Alabama 58-37 to force OT … the 14-point comeback out of halftime is tied for the largest in at home (vs. Vanderbilt, 1967) and second-largest overall in program history … there is nothing in the record book to gauge the 21-point comeback … the Gators improved to 55-45 all-time in overtime games, 21-16 at home, 9-8 in 2OT, 10-10 in games of 2OT or more and 40-30 in OT against SEC opponents … Florida won the rebounding battle (52-46), second-chance points (21-14), paint scoring (40-34) and fastbreak points (13-8) yet led for only 6:30 of the 50-minute game … UF improved to 81-2 all-time when scoring more than 100 points in a game with 44 straight wins since 1988 … Florida is now 70-75 all-time against Alabama with three straight series wins and victories in 15 of the last 17 meetings

What it means: Honestly, who knows at this point? The comeback by Florida was truly incredible. The team that played the final 30 minutes of the game looked like the one fans expected at the start of the season. The team that played the first 20 minutes could not find the bottom of the basket nor stop Alabama offensively, giving up 46 points in the opening period. The Gators cannot seem to play consistently against a decent opponent for 40 minutes of regulation, so there’s no telling what this team looks like from game to game. Will this be a turning point? The Charleston Classic victory back in November was supposed to be that, then the domination of Providence in mid-December. The truth is that UF cannot be trusted until it strings together multiple competent games (hell, halves) in a row.

What’s next? Florida will try to win its third straight game for just the second time all season when it travels to face South Carolina on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will air live on ESPNU.

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