Alabama forward Braxton Key received a pass inside the three-point line and immediately drove toward the basket. He powered through the Florida’s defense, converting a contested layup with 7:29 left in the second half to cap off an 11-0 run for the Crimson Tide.
In UF’s 68-50 loss to Alabama on Saturday at the O’Connell Center, the Crimson Tide used its size to dominate the Gators in the second half, holding UF to its lowest point total this season.
“Very discouraging to say the least,” White said. “A lot of stuff we need to be better at.”
The game started out in Florida’s favor, as it jumped out to an early lead in the first half, led by forward Keith Stone’s 12 points.
UF went on a 14-5 run in the first five minutes of the game, benefitting from a pair of three-pointers from guards KeVaughn Allen and Egor Koulechov and two layups from Stone and guard Jalen Hudson.
The Gators (15-8, 6-4 SEC) found small holes in the Crimson Tide’s defense in the first half, attacking the basket and making nine of their 15 attempts from inside the three-point line.
When Alabama’s defense tightened, Florida responded by driving to the basket more. UF made six free throws, six layups and three dunks in the first half, a change of pace from a team that has struggled to work the ball into the paint this season.
The Gators used that to their advantage, building a lead as large as 10 points with 7:30 left in the half. When Alabama (15-8, 6-4 SEC) cut its deficit to three, Florida responded with layups from Chiozza and Koulechov to send UF into halftime up 33-27.
On defense, the Gators overwhelmed the Crimson Tide in the first 20 minutes. Alabama turned over the ball 14 times, eight of which came from UF steals.
“I thought we were in a really good groove defensively,” White said. “The only conversation at halftime was to maintain that level of intensity and attention to detail and take it to another level.”
The Gators didn’t keep that intensity going, however.
Florida’s overwhelming defense disappeared, paving the way for the Crimson Tide to dominate offensively. Alabama opened the frame on an 8-0 run off four straight points from Key.
Meanwhile, the Gators started the half missing their first five shot attempts before Allen made a layup and a three-pointer. Allen led Florida with 16 points, 10 of which came in the second half.
Florida’s shooting woes continued as it struggled to find a basket. The Gators went 7 of 31 in the final 20 minutes.
“Like Coach White says, we are a team that tries to hit home runs,” Allen said. “We would probably be better (if we) move the ball and not wait till there is 10 seconds left on the shot clock.”
With UF unable find a groove on offense, its defense suffered as well. Alabama put pressure on the Gators, using its size to drive to the basket and score 30 points in the paint in the final 20 minutes of play.
An 11-0 run from the Crimson Tide consisting of two layups, two jump shots and a three-pointer put the score at 54-43 with 7:29 left in the game.
The Gators never recovered from that run. Florida answered with just seven points the rest of the game, capping off a 17-point second half for the Gators.
The loss marks the first time UF has dropped two consecutive games since the start of conference play.
“It’s pretty frustrating because I know the players are mad, I know the coaches are mad, I know the fans are mad,” Stone said. “We just have to turn it around a get better.”