TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This was the kind of effort Florida coach Mike White wanted to see heading into March.
Bodies flying around on defense. Ball movement on offense. Not settling for 3-point shots.
OK, so maybe rebounding wasn’t so great Tuesday, but in all other phases, Florida was dominant in a 73-52 win over Alabama at Coleman Coliseum. The Gators (19-11, 10-7 SEC) won their second straight and secured a winning record in league play, which should lock up an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.
Florida also avenged a 68-50 home loss to Alabama on Feb. 3.
“We kind of got embarrassed last time,” said Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson, who led three UF scorers in double figures with 27 points. “Nobody liked that feeling, especially at home. We definitely owed them one.”
It showed on the defensive end of the floor. The Gators held Alabama to 18 first-half points, a season low for points allowed in the first half, and built a 37-18 halftime lead. During one first-half stretch, Alabama missed 19 straight shots. Florida held star Alabama freshman point guard Collin Sexton to 0-of-7 shooting from the floor in the first half and just four points. It also helped that Alabama had junior center Donta Hall in foul trouble in the first half. Hall picked up two first-half fouls and played just six minutes in the first half.
Florida limited Alabama (17-13, 8-9) to 13.3 percent shooting from the field in the first half (4-30) and 12.5 percent shooting (1-8) from 3-point range.
“Being in the stance, intense, moving with the basketball, our base principles, we just carried them out as well as we have all year,” White said. “We’ve had our consistency issues and we had less tonight.”
Alabama never cut UF’s lead to below 17 points in the second half. Hudson scored 15 of his 27 points in the second half to allow the Gators to pull away. The 6-foot-6 Hudson scored in a variety of ways, going 9 of 13 from the floor, 3 of 5 from 3-point range and 6 of 8 from the foul line.
“Hudson, we basically knew his strengths and weaknesses, but he was a difference maker,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. “We guarded him in Florida. We didn’t guard him tonight.”
Said Hudson: “We were just swinging the ball around. We played unselfish. I was able to get a couple of shots off.”
While Hudson downplayed his big offensive night, the Gators also got 15 points from guard Egor Koulechov and 13 points from junior guard KeVaughn Allen. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza had 4 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, tying Erving Walker’s UF record with 547 career assists. Chiozza can break the record on his Senior Day when UF closes the regular season at home Saturday against Kentucky.
“This is God’s way of telling him to bring it back home, he’s going to break the record back home,” Hudson said.
Alabama’s defense was somewhat hamstrung by the loss of freshman forward Herb Jones, who left the game in the first half with a head injury. Florida consistently drove to the basket early and was able to finish, shooting 48.2 percent from the floor (27-56) and 62.5 percent (20-32) on two-point shots. The Gators also got to the foul line 20 times, shooting 60 percent (12-20).
Florida fell behind 7-2 early, not scoring its first basket until a driving layup by Koulechov with 17:06 left in the first half. But the Gators took the lead for good on a 10-0 run to go up 12-7. Hudson scored eight straight points during the run.
“We settled (for 3s) less, moved it more,” White said. “Ball and body movement was better. Pace was better.”
Alabama grabbed a whopping 20 offensive rebounds, outrebounding the Gators 46-31. But unlike the matchup in Gainesville, the rebounding discrepancy wasn’t as big a factor, because Alabama only converted the offensive rebounds into 11 second-chance points. Florida contested second, third and sometimes even fourth-chance opportunities that Alabama missed close the basket.
Sexton led the Tide with 14 points and 3 assists on 5 of 16 shooting. Sophomore forward Braxton Key added 11 points for Alabama, which dropped its fourth straight game.
“Give credit where credit is due,” Johnson said. “Florida came in playing like a desperate team. We got off to a decent start, but again once they took control of the game they never looked back.”
FREE THROWS: Redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett did not play in the second half due to feeling sick and will be checked Wednesday in Gainesville. … The Gators finished the season 5-4 in true road games. Florida also ended February with a 4-4 record. … Former UF and current Alabama assistant coach John Pelphrey coached his third game against the Gators since joining Alabama’s staff. Pelphrey’s son, Jaxson, a former P.K. Yonge baseball standout, is now a student manager for Alabama’s basketball team.
|FLORIDA 73, ALABAMA 52|
Bassett 0-1 0-0 0, Koulechov 7-11 0-0 15, Hudson 9-13 6-8 27, Chiozza 2-7 0-0 4, Allen 4-12 4-4 13, Stone 3-6 0-0 8, Hayes 0-0 0-0 0, Gak 0-0 0-4 0, Fava 1-2 0-0 2, Ballard 1-4 1-2 3, Krause 0-0 0-0 0, Okauru 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 27-56 12-20 73.
Key 5-10 0-0 11, Hall 0-2 3-6 3, Sexton 5-16 4-6 14, Ingram 3-6 1-2 8, Jones 0-4 0-0 0, Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Reese 1-3 0-0 2, Giddens 2-4 3-5 7, A.Johnson 1-8 2-3 4, Petty 1-4 0-0 3, Schaffer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-60 13-22 52.
Halftime_Florida 37-18. 3-Point Goals_Florida 7-24 (Hudson 3-5, Stone 2-5, Koulechov 1-4, Allen 1-7, Fava 0-1, Ballard 0-1, Chiozza 0-1), Alabama 3-15 (Key 1-1, Petty 1-4, Ingram 1-4, A.Johnson 0-1, Sexton 0-1, Reese 0-1, Jones 0-1, Schaffer 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Florida 29 (Chiozza 9), Alabama 43 (Key, Reese 8). Assists_Florida 9 (Chiozza 4), Alabama 9 (Sexton, Schaffer 3). Total Fouls_Florida 20, Alabama 19.