Copy. Paste. Gators win.
It was a tale of two halves for the Gators today against Alabama in the O’Dome. Using a formula Gator fans have gotten all too used to, the Gators used a strong second half to run away from the Crimson Tide 78-69 for their 15th consecutive victory and 29th straight at home.
The Gators started strong in this one using their pressure defense to force turnovers and jump out to a quick 12-2 lead barely four minutes into the game. Alabama regained their poise and settled down from there using a 20-6 run to take a four point lead with just under 7 minutes left in the first half. The Gators held tight and ended the half strong going into halftime tied at 36. It was the most points the Gators have given up in the first half all season at home.
After playing much improved defensively the last few weeks, the Gators took a step back in the first half against the Tide giving up wide open threes, being late on help, and allowing the Tide easy drives to the basket. Trevor Releford led all scorers at the half with 16 on 4-6 shooting from the field and 3-5 from three.
As has been their M.O. all season, however, the Gators made significant halftime adjustments and dominated the second half using a 25-7 run to to take a 64-49 lead with under 9 minutes to go in the game. The Tide hung around throughout, however, closing within 7 but could never get over the hump as the Gators closed out the victory.
The Gators were extremely balanced offensively as all five starters finished in double figures shooting an outstanding 62% (31-50) from the field. They also had a season high 22 assists with great ball movement repeatedly getting the ball into the paint.
Scottie Wilbekin led the way for the Gators with 16 points including 3 huge three point shots, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. Casey Prather chipped in 15 points with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Michael Frazier scored 14, while Will Yeguete had a fantastic game scoring 12 with 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and two steals.
Patric Young finished with 11 points and two huge blocks while Dorian Finney-Smith continued his stellar play off the bench with four points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and a block. Freshman Chris Walker followed up his debut performance with 4 points on two alley oops in four minutes which threatened to raise the O’Dome roof.
Defensively, the Gators played much better in the second half holding Releford, who led all scorers, to only 3 points through much of the second half before getting some points late to finish with 25. The Tide still shot a stellar 55% overall from the field but were forced into 16 turnovers leading to 27 Gator points.
With the victory the Gators move to 21-2 overall on the season and 10-0 in the SEC. The Gators begin a tough two game road stretch at Tennessee on Tuesday with a trip to Kentucky looming on Saturday. Tuesday night’s game is scheduled for a 7 pm eastern tipoff and will be broadcast live on ESPN the third of four straight Gator games airing on the network.