The Florida Gators men’s basketball team traveled to Alabama to take on the Crimson Tide in a battle of the final two teams undefeated in conference play. However, the Gators were rebounded and shot into submission before leaving with their first SEC loss, 86-71.
The Gators struggled in the opening half, especially on the defensive glass. The Tide outrebounded UF 25-17 in the first 20 minutes, including 11 offensive rebounds. Alabama got hot from the court near the end of the first half as well, finishing the opening frame connecting at a 45.5% clip from the court and 55.6% from three.
The Gators made three of five three-pointers in the first half but the mid-range jump shots that had worked so well against LSU Saturday abandoned them as the team made just seven of 27 shots inside the arc. The Tide ended the first half on an 18-8 run to open up a 39-32 lead as both teams headed to the locker room.
The second half got off to a promising start after Florida went on a 7-0 run to open and tie the game once more, but after that it was all Alabama. The Gators only made one shot in the following five minutes while the Tide went on a 20-4 run to blow the game wide open, leading by as much as 21 before the eventual 15-point win. The Tide had six more rebounds, one less turnover and seven more free throw attempts than the Gators over the course of the game.
The Tide rolled offensively as they had a trio of players with 16 points and two others with at least 12. Alabama brought in 36 points off the bench, lead by guard Keon Ellis with 16 points and forward John Rojas with 15. Ellis and Rojas also contributed eight and five rebounds, respectively.
Senior forward Herbert Jones might have been the best player on the floor, tallying 16 points, five rebounds and a pair of steals despite having to sit for a long stretch in foul trouble. He was the best defensive player on their squad Tuesday, drawing several offensive fouls and forcing turnovers.
As for the Gators, reigning co-SEC Player of the Week Colin Castleton had his third straight game with double-digit points (13) and nearly reached a double-double with eight rebounds. Tyree Appleby was the Gators leading scorer, coming off the bench to add 18 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Five players wearing orange and blue finished with eight or more points, but no others had more than three. Scottie Lewis was in foul trouble for a majority of the game, minimizing his impact to just two points and blocks each. The team shot 9-20 from three, a major improvement over the LSU game, but only 18-48 from the rest of the court and 8-14 from the free throw line.
The Gators will fall to 5-2, 2-1 in conference, and will take the court again at home on Saturday at 5 p.m. against the Kentucky Wildcats.