Some observations following Florida’s 52-50 win over Alabama:
— Florida coach Billy Donovan explained his decision to play freshman point guard Chris Chiozza down the stretch over sophomore point guard Kasey Hill. “He made a couple of plays, he knocked down that big 3 (to put Florida up 44-41) and he was engaged in the game, he was defending,” Donovan said. “Really there was no reason to take him out. It wasn’t that I was upset with Kasey or didn’t want to play Kasey, I thought Chris played well. He made a couple of really nice passes.” Chiozza had his freshman moments, including an ill-advised shot on a drive to the basket with 1:56 left. But he also showed good command of the offense, finishing with 3 points, 3 assists and 2 steals, including a nice lob to Chris Walker on an alley-oop play to put Florida up 50-45. For Hill, meanwhile, it was a night of more inconsistency. After an early 3-pointer, Hill was unable to finish a layup later in the first half and wound up with 5 points, 3 assists and 1 steal.
— Florida came into the game with an edge on Alabama in rebounding based on statistics (Florida was plus-3 in rebounding margin and Alabama was minus-0.6). But the Gators failed to capitalize on the boards, and it almost cost them Tuesday night. Alabama outrebounded Florida 30-28 and has 12 offensive rebounds to Florida’s 9. A critical stretch came, with Florida up 50-45, the Gators failed to get three offensive rebounds. Walker allowed a rebound off a missed Michael Kessens free throw to slip off his fingers out of bounds after mis-timing his leap. “It felt like they had the ball for five minutes,” Donovan said. Actually, Alabama had the ball for 1:12, but the possession ended with a jumper from Alabama guard Rodney Cooper that cut Florida’s lead to 50-47. In a tight game, Florida shouldn’t be giving a team that many chances.
— Credit Florida for getting back to defending a more intense level. Junior guard Eli Carter took two charges in the first half, and for the game, Florida took four charges. The Gators were able to get Alabama starting center Jimmie Taylor in foul trouble by staying home on charges and limited their own fouling, finishing the game with just 13 fouls. Alabama had some mistakes offensively, but Florida was able to string together multiple stops to make up for some its own offensive issues.