Florida vs. Alabama score, takeaways: Gators blow out No. 16 Tide, make NCAA Tournament statement

By OnlyGators.com Staff
March 5, 2024
Florida vs. Alabama score, takeaways: Gators blow out No. 16 Tide, make NCAA Tournament statement

Image Credit: UAA

The Florida Gators exorcised some demons Tuesday night picking up the win over a No. 16 Alabama Crimson Tide team that it should have defeated two weeks ago. The Gators led by nine points at halftime and as many as 23 in the second half on the way to a 105-87 victory on Senior Night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The 105 points were the most UF scored in regulation this season, one shy of its 106-point overall high.

The victory was a statement for head coach Todd Golden’s squad, which has been in and out of the top 25 rankings over the last few weeks with bracketologists struggling to decide where to place Florida on their projected 2024 NCAA Tournament brackets. The Gators proved by destroying the Tide that they are undoubtedly a top-seven seed and perhaps much higher depending how the rest of the year transpires.

Let’s take a look at what went down Tuesday night in the O’Dome as UF improved to 21-9 (11-6 SEC).

It was over when … junior guard Will Richard drained a 3-pointer as part of a 6-0 run to push Florida back ahead 21 points with 4 minutes to play. UF went up 20 midway through the second half thanks to a 12-2 run. The Gators outscored the Tide 26-15 to open the period, keeping the visitors inside the 3-point line where they have done so much damage this season. A triple from redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin pushed that advantage to a 21 points, and two free throws by Richard extended it to a game-high 23 with 7:19 remaining.

First half focus: Florida and Alabama started a combined 0 of 12 from 3-point range. It was not until the final 5:05 of the period that the Gators broke out offensively, scoring more points over that stretch (23) than they did in the opening 14:55 (21). Florida used an extended 18-5 stretch capped by a fastbreak dunk from Richard to take an 11-point lead and ultimately took a 44-35 advantage into the locker rooms.

Exceptional efforts: Richard entered Tuesday just 1 of 13 from the field with four points over his last two games; he bounced back hitting 8 of 11 shots and 3 of 4 triples for a team-high 23 points with three rebounds. Junior G Walter Clayton Jr. was ice cold from the floor but dynamite at the charity stripe, hitting 15 of 16 gimmies for 22 points with three assists and two boards. Redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel was steady throughout the contest, making all nine of his free throws on his way to 19 points with four rebounds and three dimes. Pullin, who is on pace to set UF’s single-season mark for assist average, was similarly consistent with 19 points on 5 of 11 shooting, hitting all eight of his attempts from the charity stripe with three dimes and two boards. Condon had a team-high seven rebounds while scoring 10 points.

Standout stat: Florida was an astounding 40 of 46 from the line as a team, its second-best mark of the season by average (87%) but best overall performance given the prior high (90%) was on 9 of 10 shooting. The Gators’ 46 attempts were 10 more than they previously had in any game and 17 more than they had in another SEC game this season.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 71-79 all-time against Alabama, after splitting the season series, with a 41-22 mark in the O’Dome … Golden is now 1-2 against the Tide … the Gators improved to 18-5 when leading at halftime and 19-3 when leading with 5 minutes left … Florida is now 13-1 when shooting 45% or better from the field, 17-2 when outshooting an opponent (15-4 when doing so from downtown), and 14-4 when taking more free throws … the Gators dominated the Tide on the fastbreak (27-8) and scoring off turnovers (17-7) but were again bested inside with Bama holding a 48-40 scoring margin … UF held one of the nation’s best 3-point shooting teams to 5 of 23 (.217) from long range

What it means: Coming off a heartbreaking road loss at South Carolina last week and tough-to-swallow overtime loss to this same Alabama team two weeks ago, Florida badly needed a significant victory to conclude its regular season. The Gators are now 4-8 against Quadrant 1 teams after a huge win over the Tide, which entered Tuesday night rated No. 7 in the NET rankings. Florida is firmly in the NCAA Tournament field despite what happens in its next game or how it plays in the forthcoming SEC Tournament. However, while UF is likely a 6- or 7-seed at this time, it can absolutely play its way up to a 5-seed or even a 4-seed with a run through the league tourney. The Gators are getting hot at the right time.

Looking back on its SEC schedule to this point, Florida was just a couple possessions away from sweeping Alabama and Kentucky, and it should have won at South Carolina, too. In fact, the last time the Gators lost a game by a decisive margin was back in mid-January.

What’s next? Florida will wrap its regular season Saturday when it visits Vanderbilt. The game will tip at 4:30 p.m. ET and air live on SEC Network. The Gators blasted the Commodores 77-64 on Feb. 24.

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