No. 23 Florida nearly threw away a huge lead and its undefeated start in SEC play with a second-half collapse Tuesday night, but yet again these Gators found a way to win in the end.
And win big.
Florida actually found itself trailing for a extended stretch after halftime, but it rallied back to pull away over the final 10 minutes and finish off an 80-67 win over Alabama at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
With that, the Gators earned their sixth straight win to improve to 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the SEC, as one of just three teams still unbeaten in the league. Alabama (9-6, 2-1) was part of that group before the loss.
Florida had led by as many as 18 points late in the first half before squandering that advantage entirely.
The Gators’ lead was down to 38-31 at halftime and Alabama took charge early in the second half with a 12-1 run to go ahead 48-45 while taking its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Tide forward Donta Hall swung the momentum on the scoreboard and in the arena in general with back-to-back putback slams off teammates’ misses, completing that comeback early in the second half and giving the hosts a 46-45 lead late in that spurt.
But the Gators weren’t done.
Keith Stone later drained a 3-pointer from the corner to put Florida back ahead, 61-59. After Alabama’s Dazon Ingram tied it with two free throws, Devin Robinson went to the line for the Gators and took the lead right back with a pair of foul shots.
Florida never trailed again while continuing its strong start to SEC play and the season in general.
Stone led the Gators with 14 points off the bench, point guard Kasey Hill added 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists and guard Canyon Barry chipped in 13 points as well.
Forward Braxton Key scored a game-high 24 points for Alabama while Hall finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Player of the game: Keith Stone
The redshirt freshman forward scored in double figures for just the third time all season, hitting on 4-of-6 shots overall and a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
The Gators continue to flaunt their depth with different role players stepping up each game, as Stone did Tuesday night.
There was a lot of talk in the preseason about what the 6-foot-8 forward might add to the team in his first season and this was a glimpse of his potential.
Key stat line
Alabama did itself no favors while shooting just 50 percent from the foul line (16 of 32).
In all Florida, went on a 25-10 run after falling behind 53-47. Stone started it with 5 straight points and later delivered that go-ahead 3 to really quell Alabama’s momentum.
What’s next for Florida
Florida returns home to host Georgia on Saturday at noon. The game will air on ESPN2.
The Bulldogs are off to a 10-5 star overall and 2-1 in the SEC.
Yante Maten, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, has elevated his game this season, averaging 20.2 points and 8.4 rebounds. Senior guard J.J. Frazier is averaging 16.0 points per game.
Florida-Alabama box score