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Florida 69, Alabama 61: Gators hit offensive glass to wear down Tide in second half

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The scoring droughts that plagued Alabama basketball throughout the 2014-15 season followed them to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday.

After building an eight-point lead in the first seven minutes of its contest versus Florida, the Crimson Tide's offense went as cold as the hockey floor underneath the basketball court they were playing on. Leading 23-15 at the 10:46 mark in the first half, the Tide went seven-plus minutes without a field goal. Alabama scored just six points in the final 10 minutes of the first half, which allowed the Gators to slowly creep back into the game and take a 33-29 lead into halftime.

The end result? A 69-61 loss to the Gators for the Tide and an early exit for from the SEC tournament. Florida moves on to play Kentucky on Friday.

It's the 11th straight time Alabama has lost to Florida, including an 0-10 record during Grant's tenure.

"I thought our guys battled all the way through," Tide coach Anthony Grant said. "Foul trouble hurt us a little bit today. Probably made a big difference in the second half there. But I think we put ourselves in a position where we had opportunities.

"Unfortunately, we weren't able to make enough plays to win the game."

After having two fouls called on them in the first 13 minutes, Alabama had seven called on them the rest of the first half, allowing Florida to get into the bonus and shoot free throws. It also slowed the game down, another factor that worked against Alabama.

Florida outrebounded Alabama 35-24, but the Gators 12 offensive boards were what helped propel them to the victory. Throughout the second half, the Gators would grab timely offensive rebounds, which would lead to second-chance points.

The Tide kept it close and were within three points, but back-to-back possessions with offensive rebounds that led to two three-pointers pushed the Gators margin to nine points. That sequence between the 13:08 and the 12:09 mark was the difference as Alabama couldn't fight back.

"We lost focus," said Tide guard Justin Coleman, a freshman. "I think if we had stayed more focused and done our assignments that we were supposed to do, we would have came out with the win."

Added Jimmie Taylor, "They're relentless on the glass. Give Florida credit because they're relentless on the glass. Every time they got one, it took a little momentum from us."

Taylor and Levi Randolph each had a team-high 15 points. Rodney Cooper put in 13 before fouling out while Retin Obasohan scored 10.

As they did after last year's SEC tournament exit, questions arose about Grant's future with team. But Grant said he isn't concerned with any of that and is hopeful Alabama earns a bid to the National Invitation Tournament this postseason.

"Haven't give it any thought," Grant said. "Our focus is on this year's team, controlling the things that we can control on a daily basis. Hopefully, we can continue to play this season.

"We'll see what happens for us on Sunday. We'll know more then. As I always do at the end of the year, we'll evaluate as we move forward."

But Donovan, Grant's mentor or former boss, had much stronger words for anyone who believes Grant shouldn't return next season.

"I don't think that people have any idea how great of a coach Anthony Grant is, and I saw it firsthand," Donovan said. " Let's put it this way, Alabama better hope he comes back, that's what I would say."

ALABAMA (18-14)

Norris 3-7 0-0 8, Taylor 6-10 3-6 15, Randolph 2-7 11-11 15, Cooper 4-7 4-5 13, Obasohan 4-7 1-1 10, Kessens 0-2 0-0 0, Coleman 0-1 0-0 0, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Slaughter 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-42 19-23 61.

FLORIDA (16-16)

Hill 1-1 0-2 2, Carter 4-10 1-1 11, Finney-Smith 7-14 5-7 23, Chiozza 2-3 2-3 7, Horford 2-3 0-0 4, Robinson 2-3 5-6 10, Murphy 2-4 3-4 7, Frazier II 1-10 2-3 5, C. Walker 0-1 0-0 0, Kurtz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 18-26 69.

Halftime--Florida 33-29. 3-Point Goals--Alabama 4-14 (Norris 2-5, Obasohan 1-2, Cooper 1-3, Slaughter 0-1, Kessens 0-1, Randolph 0-2), Florida 9-29 (Finney-Smith 4-9, Carter 2-6, Chiozza 1-1, Robinson 1-2, Frazier II 1-8, Horford 0-1, Murphy 0-2). Fouled Out--Cooper, Obasohan. Rebounds--Alabama 24 (Norris 7), Florida 35 (Finney-Smith 11). Assists--Alabama 9 (Randolph 4), Florida 11 (Chiozza 4). Total Fouls--Alabama 20, Florida 20. A--NA.

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