The Gators once again had to overcome an 11-point halftime deficit at home tonight, beating the Alabama Crimson Tide 76-67 to run their conference record to 11-0 on the season.
Tonight, I think we got a glimpse of what this team could accomplish. In the first half, at least.
Alabama hit 10 of it's first 12 shots in this game, including finishing the first half with 5 3-pointers. One of their biggest shots of the night came with 12 seconds left in the first frame as Mykal Riley hit a shot to give the Tide an 11 point lead going into the halftime locker room.
Being 11 points down brought back memories of the game against Vanderbilt a couple weeks ago in which the Gators stormed back in the second half to win by 10 points. They would need a similar second-half in this one to beat the Tide, and they ended up getting it.
Taurean Green scored all 20 of his points in the second half, leading the Gators to a 45-25 advantage. The 20 point margin gave the Gators a 9 point win, allowing us all to breathe a sigh of relief and letting us reflect on the way this team never puts together two bad halves in a row.
Here are a few things I got out of this evening's game:
First off, Alabama impressed me. They have the tools to be a really dangerous team, and I do believe they will make a run at not only the SEC tournament title, but could win some games in March Madness as well.
Their frontcourt of Davidson, Gee and Hendrix is the kind of frontcourt that can challenge the likes of the Gators. They all seem to be very athletic, both inside and on the perimeter, and make for some very tough matchups for teams. Hendrix seems to be the big guy with size, Davidson is the one that can be dangerous off the dribble and on the post, and Gee is the hustle and do everything guy, similar to Corey Brewer.
If Steele can find ways to score more points, they could be very dangerous. He knows how to create off the dribble and seemed to be very good at breaking down the press and has a pretty good explosiveness once they get set in their halfcourt offense.
The Gators once again were over 50% shooting tonight at 51%, but still could not find a way to hit the big threes tonight that they have this season -- especially Lee Humphrey, who went 2-6 on the evening. Overall the Gators shot 23.5% from beyond the arc, very much below their season average for the second straight game.
I think that it was evident Lee Humphrey was not going to continue shooting close to 70% in conference from 3-point land. That's close to impossible. I think he's on a bit of a slump, perhaps rushing his shots or just not getting the open looks he has been -- basically, I think he'll get over it. As long as we're winning battles in other aspects of the game, Lee will just have to work through this short slump he is in.
The Gators bench player of the game was freshman Marreese Speights, who went 4-4 from the field en route to 8 points and 1 rebound off the bench in the first half. Really, he was the guy who slowly led the Gators back to respectability on the scoreboard in the first frame.
I noticed that he didn't play much in the second half though (did he at all?). I think that Billy D really is cautious about getting his freshman off the bench a pretty equal amount of time. We seem to see different freshman in at different games. It almost seems arbitrary.
That being said, good game Marreese.
Alabama was only at the free throw line 12 times tonight, and the Gators only committed 13 fouls in the game. On the other hand, the Gators went to the line 30 times. I felt that the Gators found ways to get to the line when it was really needed in this game, and that is what good teams do. Still not the best from the FT line this evening (22-30), but still respectable.
Good win, coming from behind like that. If they could put two halves together at any point this season like they did in the second half, this Gators team looks nearly unbeatable.
Tonight they got the Tide's best shot, and found a way to overcome it. Those second half comebacks won't always be there though, so they must find a way to avoid getting blown away early like that again.