No. 14 Florida beats Alabama 61-52

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 14, 2012
Alabama coach Anthony Grant didn't have an answer for when he'll let suspended stars JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell back on the court. In his mind, the Crimson Tide was left with more pressing questions after Tuesday night's 61-52 loss to No. 14 Florida. The Tide opened the second half with a horrid stretch from which it couldn't recover. ''We've got to get better as a team,'' Grant said. ''We've got to make sure that our guys understand that. They can face reality. We're getting hit in the face with reality right now. How do we respond to that? ''That's where we are right now as a team. I expect that we have guys that are fighters, that want to win, that want to be the best they can be. Hopefully that's what they came here to do.'' Patric Young took advantage of the Tide's suspension-depleted frontcourt with 19 points. However, Florida coach Billy Donovan could only give his team so much credit for surviving without the injured Will Yeguete (concussion) and Mike Rosario (bruised hip) when the Tide didn't have its top two scorers and rebounders for the second straight games, both hard-fought losses. ''It was an ugly game in a lot of respects, but let's also realize, too, that Alabama was playing without their two leading scorers,'' Donovan said. ''We had two guys out, they had two guys out.'' The impacts clearly weren't equal. The Gators (20-6, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) scored the first 16 points of the second half to turn a tie score into a comfortable win after losing two straight games. The Tide (16-9, 5-6) is still trying to regroup with Green and Mitchell on indefinite suspension. Guards Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele did rejoin the team and the starting lineup after being held out for the LSU game. ''We were prepared for Florida,'' Steele said. ''Everything that happened this past weekend, we put it behind us and we moved on.'' Grant said he hasn't made a decision on the status of Green and Mitchell for Saturday's game with Tennessee. ''We've still got a chance to control our own destiny and do the things we want to do,'' Steele said. ''We can't let one game control our whole mindset. We've still got a lot of basketball left to play. ''Everything we set in terms of our goals is still attainable. It's one game, it hurts, but we can't just dwell on it.'' Young was hard to stop inside for the Tide in the 22 minutes he was on the court. He scored 12 in the second half despite heading to the bench with four fouls halfway through and fouling out late. He finished 9 for 12 from the field. Erik Murphy and Bradley Beal scored 14 points apiece. Murphy made 4 of 7 3-pointers while Beal had eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Erving Walker had seven assists to break Ronnie Montgomery's Florida career record of 503 set from 1985-88. Steele led Alabama with 11 points. Charles Hankerson added nine points while Releford scored eight, all in the first half, and had three steals. The Tide had to turn to little-used big men Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye after freshman starter Nick Jacobs drew two quick fouls. Jacobs only played seven minutes, and Grant made another statement. ''In the second half, I didn't think that he came out with the energy that he needs to, so some other guys got some opportunities,'' the coach said. He said Jacobs took a shot to the mouth in practice this week and visited the dentist Tuesday morning. It proved a post mismatch without him, but the Gators also forced 18 turnovers, including some on errant passes and miscommunications. The 6-foot-5 Levi Randolph helped Alabama to a 34-32 rebounding edge with nine boards. The Gators came out firing in the second half. Murphy opened with a 3-pointer and Young hit four baskets inside, including a pair of dunks during the Gators' 5-minute surge that put them up 42-26 and forced Grant to burn a pair of timeouts against his mentor and former boss at Florida, Donovan. Florida started the half 7-of-8 shooting while Alabama missed its first 10 shots after the Gators switched to a zone defense. The Tide couldn't climb back to within single digits until the game's final basket. Steele hit Alabama's first basket of the half with 11 minutes left. The SEC's top scoring team also didn't need to approach its 78.8-point average either against a Tide team that is second in the league in scoring defense, but had few consistent scoring threats left. The teams went into halftime tied at 26-26, the lowest scoring first half of the season for the Gators. Florida, coming off losses to Kentucky and Tennessee, heated up for the final 20 minutes by making half its shots. Alabama finished just 4 of 16 from 3-point range and 12 of 24 from the free throw line. Yet another teaching point for Grant. ''That's just a lesson that you get in the SEC, that you cannot rely on how your offense is going to provide your energy,'' he said.
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