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No. 8 Florida rallies to beat Alabama 64-52
FLORIDA 64, ALABAMA 52
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- No. 8 Florida showed the kind of
resiliency that could come in handy in the postseason.
Casey Prather had 10 points and nine rebounds, most of them in
the second half, and the Gators rallied from an eight-point
deficit to beat Alabama 64-52 on Saturday.
The Gators used a 15-0 run late in the second half - fueled by
Prather - to pull away from the Crimson Tide and remain unbeaten
(14-0) at home.
Even though Florida won its 13 Southeastern Conference games by
double digits, this one easily could have gone the other way.
"Casey, thank God, gave us good minutes," coach Billy Donovan
said. "If he didn't play well, we probably would have had a hard
time winning the game."
Erik Murphy led Florida (23-5, 13-3 SEC) with 15 points. Kenny
Boynton added 13, and Scottie Wilbekin chipped in 11.
But there's no doubt Prather was the key. He played relentless
defense and was equally impressive on the other end. With
Prather leading the way, Florida outscored Alabama 23-5 over the
final 10 minutes of the game.
"I was definitely trying to bring energy because we looked a
little dead offensively and defensively," Prather said.
Trevor Releford led the Tide (19-10, 11-5) with 12 points.
Trevor Lacey and Nick Jacobs added 11 points apiece.
Florida made just 2 of 13 shots from 3-point range, but made up
for it by making 22 of 26 from the free-throw line.
Alabama was 4 of 10 from the charity stripe.
The Tide really went cold from the field, making just two
baskets after taking a 45-37 lead with 12:23 remaining.
"You've got to be able to manufacture some offense," coach
Anthony Grant said. "We had opportunities that we let slip
Missed shots, bad passes, charges, Alabama did a little bit of
everything to give up the lead on the road. It was the complete
opposite of what Alabama did right during a 14-4 run that put
the Tide ahead.
"Defensively, we weren't as locked in as we were during that
stretch," Lacey said.
The Gators gladly took advantage en route to clinching a
first-round bye in the SEC tournament. Florida later secured at
least a share of the SEC regular-season title when Arkansas beat
Kentucky. Donovan's team needs one more win to clinch the league
tournament's top seed.
Donovan cared little about those accomplishments after the game.
He was more concerned about his team's problems.
Florida used a 12-0 run to open up a double-digit lead early in
the game, making this look like it would be another lopsided
But the Gators stopped making shots and starting giving up
baskets at every turn. It was concerning for Donovan because
it's the kind of emotional letdown he has tried to rid his team
of the last two years.
Instead of moving the ball and getting everyone involved, the
Gators started taking ill-advised shots and trying to do too
"We've deviated from who we are and we've got to get back to
that," Donovan said.
Getting healthy could help.
Bench players Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier II returned from
injuries but clearly weren't at full strength. Yeguete missed
six games following arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies
from his right knee, and Frazier sat out Tuesday night's loss at
Tennessee because of a concussion. Frazier also missed two days
of practice this week with back spasms.
Neither did much against the Tide.
Yeguete missed both shots, had one rebound and one turnover in
11 lackluster minutes. Frazier missed his only shot and had a
turnover in 6 minutes.
"I couldn't get anything out of Frazier at all," Donovan said.
"And Yeguete tells me after the game that he was absolutely
petrified going out there."
Prather picked up the slack, a welcome sight for Florida since
he's been banged up all season. He missed several games because
of a concussion and a few more with a high-ankle sprain.
He banged his head against the Volunteers, needed stiches above
his left eye and created concern about another concussion. He
passed all his baseline tests, though, and turned in one of his
best performances in three years.
"I thought we were a little drained," Donovan said. "I thought
Casey, for whatever really, was really focused and locked in.
... Scottie wasn't himself. I didn't think Kenny Boynton was
himself. Patric (Young) wasn't himself. Murphy looked a step
slow. It was just one of those games where you sometimes can't
maybe put your finger on it.
"I was really, really, really disappointed in my team.
Disappointed in my team that I didn't do a better job getting
them ready to play and I couldn't have been any prouder the last
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