Turnovers, energy, fewer possessions doom Gators men's basketball team against Alabama

Graham Hall
UF basketball writer

After taking a one-possession lead into the halftime break, the Florida men’s basketball team struggled early in the second half en route to suffering an 83-70 loss at home to No. 20 Alabama, marking the program’s fourth defeat this season, and UF coach Mike White acknowledged in his post-game comments that the team’s level of focus and intensity was off as the final 20 minutes of play commenced. 

Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide appeared to have been rejuvenated. 

“Our energy level coming out of the locker room was not correct. There’s was,” White said. “They threw the first few punches of the second half.” 

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'Bama connected on seven field goals before Myreon Jones knocked down a 3-pointer with 11:48 left on the clock for UF’s first make of the second half. By then, Alabama’s lead had reached 15, and the Gators were on the ropes. Although the box score might indicate Florida won the second-chance battle, 'Bama finished the game with 72 shot attempts to UF’s 52 after winning the offensive rebound and turnover battles against the Gators. 

Florida Gators' Myreon Jones (0) shoots a 3 over Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly (13) on Wednesday nigght at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville.

UF’s advantage on the glass waned in the second half, too.

“Physicality for us was a huge key, obviously, and paint touches,” White said. “And they know that, and they did a good job of it in the first half, but we weren’t as good in the second half. And I thought they had a lot to do with that.”

Alabama would finish with 21 points off of 20 turnovers by Florida, and the Crimson Tide frontcourt pulled down 20 offensive rebounds to UF’s 15. 

With the SEC slate not getting any easier, White knows the Gators must improve when it comes to taking care of the basketball and maintaining intensity in the second half.

“A lot of good teams in this league,” White said. “This league’s at an all-time high. But opportunity is as well.” 

Phlandrous Fleming’s return to competition

Graduate transfer guard Phlandrous Fleming Jr. finished the game 0 of 6 from the field in 16 minutes of action to go along with three turnovers — hardly a performance to remember. 

But that wasn’t the focus, let alone the bigger picture, when it came to his play Wednesday. 

White revealed Fleming hadn’t done much of anything over the previous two weeks before taking the court against Alabama. 

“He literally did not go live until he got in the game today,” White said of Fleming. “Since, I don’t know when. It’s been a long time. So he’ll get back in the flow, of course.” 

Florida forward Colin Castleton and guard Myreon Jones dismissed the notion that fatigue played a factor in the team’s play against Alabama, as did White — at least initially. UF’s head coach, asked if the team’s latest COVID pause led to any chances from a schematic standpoint, later admitted he was curious as to how the team would fare after a lengthy layoff. 

Alabama center Charles Bediako (10) shoots over Florida Gators center Jason Jitoboh (33) on Wednesday night at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville.

“I was really anxious to see where some of these guys would be from a conditioning standpoint,” White said. “I’ll say that. Phlan Fleming, he’s cramped up at halftime.”

As a result, the Gators didn’t seem to utilize the fullcourt press as often as they’ve shown this season, though White made sure to note he didn’t believe it was a catalyst in the defeat. 

“To me, it was a very, very little factor in the game. The blocking out and taking care of the basketball were the big factors,” White said. “Equally as big of factor was the one I just gave you. You’re playing a team that’s as good in transition offense as any team in the country, as good of a backcourt as we’re going to play all year, and we were just a little bit leery of trapping in the backcourt."

CJ Felder crafting a role

As the youngest of the four transfers this season, Florida forward CJ Felder is still figuring out how he fits on both ends of the floor. But, despite the outcome, Wednesday was clearly another step forward for the 19-year-old junior. Felder had a season-high in scoring and rebounding with 12 and six, respectively, as UF’s bench outscored the Crimson Tide’s, 19-7.

From the outset, Felder looked ready to compete. In the opening minutes of the contest, Felder attacked the basket, finished the two-handed slam in spite of the best attempts from Alabama’s rim defense and proceeded to let the Crimson Tide hear about it.

He would later convert two of his three attempts from long-range while adding a block on the other end in 22 minutes of play. 

Along with forward Jason Jitoboh, who finished with six points and three rebounds, the Gators appear to have tangible depth in the frontcourt as the gauntlet that is league play gets underway. 

“We know how good he is, what he’s capable of,” Castleton said of Felder. “Him and Duruji have a good 1-2 punch, and he just brings it every night.”

Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly (13) sneaks in to try and steal the ball from Florida Gators guard Brandon McKissic (23) on Wednesday night at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville.

No. 15 Alabama 83, Florida 70

ALABAMA (11-3) 

Gary 7-11 4-4 19, Bediako 4-8 3-4 11, Ellis 5-11 1-1 13, Jah.Quinerly 7-18 3-4 19, Shackelford 4-12 3-4 14, Davison 0-3 2-2 2, Miles 0-3 0-0 0, Ambrose-Hylton 1-4 0-0 2, Gurley 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 29-72 16-19 83.

FLORIDA (9-4) 

Castleton 7-10 5-7 19, Duruji 1-1 2-4 5, Appleby 1-6 7-10 9, Jones 4-14 0-0 11, McKissic 2-2 1-2 7, Felder 5-10 0-0 12, Fleming 0-6 0-0 0, Jitoboh 2-3 2-3 6, Reeves 0-0 1-2 1, Kennedy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 18-28 70.

Halftime_Florida 39-36. 3-Point Goals_Alabama 9-32 (Shackelford 3-8, Ellis 2-7, Jah.Quinerly 2-9, Gurley 1-1, Gary 1-3, Bediako 0-1, Davison 0-1, Miles 0-2), Florida 8-23 (Jones 3-12, McKissic 2-2, Felder 2-3, Duruji 1-1, Fleming 0-2, Appleby 0-3). Fouled Out_Gurley. Rebounds_Alabama 35 (Gary 8), Florida 35 (Castleton, Jones 7). Assists_Alabama 16 (Jah.Quinerly 5), Florida 12 (Appleby 5). Total Fouls_Alabama 21, Florida 20. A_10,210 (10,133).

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When: 8 p.m. Saturday