Florida 68, Alabama 62: Gators grind out a win in Tuscaloosa

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's now 3-0 on the road in the SEC after wearing down the Crimson Tide on their home floor.

Typically, a tide does its damage incrementally over time. But it was Florida doing that to Alabama on Thursday night in Tuscaloosa, and the Gators earned their 68-62 win bit by bit.

The Gators got 10 threes, but never put together a run better than an early 9-2 run to go from 2-2 to 11-4. Michael Frazier sank five of those threes, but needed 13 shots to get five to fall. Florida did its typical vacuum act on the boards, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds — but that's easier to do when there are 38 misses that offer opportunities.

This wasn't a pretty win, but those don't happen against Alabama, not since Anthony Grant's arrival in Tuscaloosa. Though the Tide struggled from the field, just like Florida — 22-of-57 on the night, and 2-for-12 from beyond the arc — they stayed in the game thanks to solid, relentless defense, and Florida's — Frazier's especially — quick trigger on deep shots.

Casey Prather had 14 points in his first start since suffering a knee injury two weeks ago against South Carolina, but never really got into a groove on offense, and made just six of his 16 shots. Dorian Finney-Smith and Will Yeguete had six points and 11 rebounds each, despite getting seven and three offensive rebounds, respectively; Patric Young grabbed five offensive boards (six total) and had five points. Scottie Wilbekin needed four late free throws to get to double figures.

But Florida can play defense, too, and both made life hell for the Tide inside and harassed guards Trevor Releford (14 points on 5-for-14 shooting), Rodney Cooper (3-for-12, nine points), and Algie Key (1-for-7, two points). Alabama's best runs were twin 6-0 stretches late in each half, but the Gators didn't have Wilbekin on the floor for the latter one, then answered it calmly, with a midrange jumper from Prather, and never let their lead shrink to fewer than five points in the final 14 minutes of play.

It was perfunctory, perhaps, but Florida's racking up a lot of those perfunctory wins against decent teams on the road, and has been far more consistent at home. If the Gators can top Tennessee on Saturday, in their first game in Gainesville in 10 days, Florida will be very well-positioned to stay undefeated in SEC play until a brutal week in mid-February featuring road trips to Tennessee and Kentucky.

And the goose egg in the column marked L will matter a lot more than the style points earned along the way.

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