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Florida vs. Alabama, Game Thread: Gators vie for 3-0 SEC start in Tuscaloosa

Can Florida continue its strong start to conference play?

NCAA Basketball: Stetson at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The news broke just about an hour before the Florida Gators were set to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa (7 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN): Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly would miss this game with an unspecified medical condition, per the Tuscaloosa News.

And sidelining the Crimson Tide’s leading scorer would, of course, seem to give Florida some help in its effort to get to 3-0 in conference play.

But the Gators need look no further than their first two conference games to see how unlikely heroes have factored into this year’s college basketball schedule.

Florida is down its presumptive leading scorer, Keyontae Johnson, after all, and has seen his mantle as the Gators’ go-to option on offense assumed in part by Michigan transfer Colin Castleton, who had back-to-back 20-point games last week and was awarded a share of the SEC’s Player of the Week award for his efforts. Castleton was especially effective in the second half against LSU, scoring Florida’s first 15 points out of halftime and staking the Gators to the lead that LSU never could wrest away.

But Castleton shared those honors with Alabama’s John Petty, whose own very good week — double-digit scoring performances in a win over Ole Miss and an upset of Tennessee in Knoxville — reminds that Alabama is deeper than just Villanova transfer Quinerly. Petty and Herb Jones are basically what remains of the Avery Johnson era in Tuscaloosa, but Nate Oats has paired them with Quinerly and Jaden Shackleford in what’s been an effective four-out lineup, albeit one that struggles to score when shots don’t fall.

In Alabama’s three losses, the Tide hasn’t posted an effective field goal percentage better than 45.5 percent, and hasn’t cracked a point per possession on offense. Florida’s sometimes smothering defense will certainly be interested in producing an effort like that on this night, lest it get into a track meet on the road with one of the few SEC teams playing at a faster tempo thus far this year.