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Alabama (21-10) vs. (22) Florida (22-9)
Friday, March 9, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: New Orleans Arena (18,500) -- New Orleans, Louisiana. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Alabama 13-3, Florida 14-2. Away Record: Alabama 4-7, Florida 4-7. Neutral Record: Alabama 4-0, Florida 4-0. Conference Record: Alabama 9-7, Florida 10-6. Series Record: Alabama leads, 78-54.
GAME NOTES: The quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament continues this afternoon when the fifth-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide take on the fourth-seeded Florida Gators at New Orleans Arena.
Alabama held off a late comeback attempt by South Carolina to win its first- round game on Thursday, 63-57, improving its overall record to 21-10. After suffering a four-game losing streak in late January, the Tide seem to have corrected their woes, winning eight of their last 11, and they appear primed for an NCAA Tournament bid regardless of today's outcome.
Florida has enjoyed a fine season at 22-9 and it is currently ranked 22nd in the nation, but those numbers don't tell the whole story of late. The Gators lost their final three regular-season bouts to fall into a three-way tie for second place in the SEC at 10-6, and they ultimately lost the tie-breakers to earn the No. 4 seed. Regardless of the late stumble, it is still UF's 10th 10- win campaign in conference in the last 14 seasons.
Alabama leads the all-time series with Florida, 78-54, although the Gators have captured the last four meetings, including the only tilt this season in a 61-52 final in Tuscaloosa.
After building an 11-point halftime lead, Alabama allowed the Gamecocks to climb to within one possession in Thursday's first-round game, but a three- point dagger by Trevor Lacey in the final minute iced the game for the Tide. Alabama shot 46.3 percent from the floor in the win, and connected on 24-of-29 free-throws, many coming in clutch fashion down the stretch. Lacey finished with 15 points to lead the team, bouncing back nicely after a goose egg in the regular-season finale loss to Ole Miss. While the Tide's offense isn't great, it has been effective, scoring 65.1 ppg while sporting the SEC's second-best free-throw percentage (.708). JaMychal Green has been a force in the paint, leading the team in scoring (13.8 ppg), field goal percentage (.543), rebounding (7.3 rpg) and blocks (1.4 bpg). Trevor Releford adds a solid 12.0 ppg and 2.8 apg to the mix. Alabama also has a great defense, surrendering a league-low 57.9 ppg.
Florida's success this season has been due in large part to its dynamic shooting attack, which ranks second in the SEC in scoring with 76.8 ppg. More specifically, it does most of its damage from beyond the three-point arc, as it has drained the most treys in the nation (307) at an impressive 38.9 percent clip. Of the long-range shooters, Kenny Boynton has been the most impressive, drilling nearly a third of the Gators' threes (102) while ranking third in the conference in scoring (16.8 ppg), which was good enough to earn him a spot on the All-SEC First Team. Joining Boynton on the First Team is Bradley Beal, who tallies 14.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.4 spg, and 0.9 bpg. Rounding out the balanced scoring attack for UF is Erving Walker (12.4 ppg, 4.7 apg), Patric Young (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Erik Murphy (10.0 ppg). The downfall for the Gators this season has been its defense, which ranks ninth in the SEC in allowing 65.9 ppg, including 75.7 ppg during its current three-game losing streak.
Alabama's defense will need to be in top form today if it wants to slow down the potent Florida shooting attack. Despite its recent struggles, the Gators will buckle down and find a way to advance after having several days to prepare.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 72, Alabama 67
03/09 10:32:45 ET
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