Florida vs. Alabama score, takeaways: No. 24 Gators fall in OT as No. 13 Tide rally late

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 21, 2024
Florida vs. Alabama score, takeaways: No. 24 Gators fall in OT as No. 13 Tide rally late

Image Credit: UAA

Does this sound familiar? The Florida Gators were ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time all season Monday only to fall in their next game. That occurred Wednesday night on the road in a 98-83 overtime loss to the No. 13 Alabama Crimson Tide.

The No. 24 Gators led by as many as 10 points in the second half only to get outscored 18-9 over the final 6 minutes of regulation with head coach Todd Golden’s team yet again squandering a double-digit lead. The Tide then posted the first seven points of the overtime period, combining for a 25-9 scoring stretch that put them in position to achieve a come-from-behind victory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Let’s take a look at what went down as Florida fell to 18-8 (8-5 SEC) on the season.

It was over when … junior guard Walter Clayton Jr. missed a 3-pointer in the game’s waining seconds after the Gators allowed the Tide to grab an offensive rebound and convert a layup on the prior possession. Alabama opened the overtime period on a 7-0 run as Florida put together multiple poor offensive possessions failed get obvious foul calls. However, the Gators fought back — through more missed foul calls — with four straight points to trail by one with 35.7 seconds remaining.

First half focus: Florida opened 4 of 7 from downtown and jumped ahead by as many as eight points with less than 7 minutes left in the opening half. However, the Gators missed their final four shots of the period as the Tide cut their deficit in half at 41-37. UF had 13 assists on its first 16 baskets, while Bama had a massive 30-22 rebounding edge while starting just 2 of 18 from long range.

Second half slugfest: Alabama came out of the locker rooms hot, tying the game at 44. Florida eventually battled back with an 8-0 run, and a 3-pointer from Clayton gave the Gators their largest advantage at 72-62 with 8:40 remaining. Wasted possessions and turnovers by Florida assisted a 10-0 run for Bama as the hosts took their first lead since early in the opening period with 4:25 left. The teams again battled down the stretch as sophomore center Micah Handlogten forced overtime with a last-second block on the Tide’s final possession. Alabama went the first 9 minutes of the second half without even attempting a triple only to hit 5 of 8 over the final 11 minutes of the period.

Exceptional efforts: Clayton was again Florida’s leading scorer with 27 points to go along with five assists and eight rebounds, but his efficiency was atrocious hitting just 4 of 16 attempts from beyond the arc with key misses late in the second half and OT (when he was 1 of 4 from the field). It was a similar story for redshirt senior point guard Zyon Pullin, who scored 17 points with six dimes and four boards but only hit 6 of 16 shots, missing his only OT attempt. The duo did combine to go 9 of 9 from the free-throw line, however.

Junior G Will Richard contributed 17 points, redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel posted 14 with eight rebounds and two blocks (increasing his efficiency in the second half), and Handlogten registered team-highs of 13 boards and three swats.

Odds & ends: Florida fell to 70-79 all-time against Alabama with a 22-50 mark in Tuscaloosa … Bama won its 16th straight SEC home game … UF lost in OT for the first time this season (3-1) … the Gators lost for just the fourth time under Golden when leading with 5 minutes left (32-4) and just the fourth time this season when leading at halftime (15-4) … Florida is now 10-19 under Golden when being outrebounded, 5-21 when being outshot from the field and 9-19 when being outshot from 3-point range … sophomore G Riley Kugel played just 2 minutes, fewest on the team; he was not injured

What it means: As well as the Gators played for large stretches against one of the top teams in the nation Wednesday night, they again fell apart when it mattered, blowing yet another double-digit lead in the second half. Florida was at the mercy of some truly atrocious officiating, but it also had far too many empty possessions in the second half and overtime — poor shot selection and turnovers. Alabama completely dominated the paint with a 56-40 scoring edge and 54-44 rebounding advantage, marking a rare occasion in which UF was bested inside to that degree this season. The Gators will get an opportunity to right some wrongs against the Tide in two weeks — UF’s penultimate game of the regular season — but this is definitely a loss that stings just 48 hours after being ranked for the first time this season.

What’s next? Florida returns to the friendly confines of the House of Horrors for consecutive home games starting with Vanderbilt coming to town Saturday for a 1 p.m. ET tip on SEC Network. While three of the last five games are at home, two of the final three are on the road.

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