Meridian Star

January 23, 2014

Florida tops Alabama, 68-62

The Associated Press
The Meridian Star

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  — No. 6 Florida was limping into halftime of a close game when Michael Frazier II nailed a 3-pointer and a foul shot.

    Frazier's back-to-back 3s later gave the Gators a double-digit cushion midway through the second half of Thursday night's 68-62 win over Alabama. He finished with 18 points and five 3-pointers, including those timely long-range shots.

    "We struggled to get it going in the first half, but they just told me to keep shooting," Frazier said. "So I did."

    The result was a 10th consecutive win for the Gators (16-2, 5-0 Southeastern Conference), matching last season's longest streak.

    The Crimson Tide (8-10, 2-3) had its league-best 14-game SEC home winning streak snapped.

    Florida went 8 of 10 from the free throw line over the final 47 seconds to halt any Alabama threat.

    Frazier shot 5 of 13, all from 3-point range. Casey Prather scored 14 points despite just 6-of-16 shooting for the Gators. Scottie Wilbekin had 10 points and four assists.

    Frazier's four-point play with 5 seconds left in the opening half gave the Gators a 33-26 lead. He hit a 3 from the right corner, his third of the half, and was fouled by Shannon Hale. Frazier made the free throw.

    Florida struggled shooting at times but did make 10 3-pointers to take advantage of what Alabama's zone defense left available.

    "We got the ball several times into the middle of the floor and we got the ball around the basket and they did a really good job collapsing on (Patric) Young and our guys in the front court," Gators coach Billy Donovan said. "What was open was from the perimeter, and we made some shots and moved the ball pretty well."

    Trevor Releford led Alabama with 14 points and four assists.             Nick Jacobs scored 12, Levi Randolph 11 and Hale 10.

    The Tide was without No. 2 scorer Retin Obasohan, who strained his left hip flexor in Tuesday's practice.

    Alabama struggled to get into an offensive rhythm in his absence, allowing the Gators to focus more on Releford defensively.

    "If he was out there, he could have definitely helped," said Releford, who shot 5 of 12 from the floor. "We missed him tonight."

    The Gators earned win No. 100 for the four-man senior class, all starters.

    "It's a great accomplishment," Prather said. "It humbles us knowing that we have so far to go, but we have also come so far since our freshman year."

    They have won the last eight meetings with the Tide and 10 of 11. Florida also had handed Alabama its last home SEC loss on Feb. 14, 2012.

    Alabama has lost three of four games, despite holding six straight opponents below 70 points.

    Randolph hit a pair of free throws on back-to-back possessions to cut Florida's lead to 62-57 with 1:07 left.

    Florida ran 20 seconds off the clock before forcing the Tide to foul, and then the free throw parade began. The Gators didn't make a field goal over the last 4 minutes.

    Frazier hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Florida its first double-digit lead, 53-43, with 9:28 left.

    "I was open and my teammates just told me the next one was going in," he said. "I was able to get up two, and fortunately both of them went in."

    Young then made a steal and lofted a long pass to Kasey Hill for a layup. Alabama cut the 12-point deficit in half with a 6-0 spurt but couldn't get any closer until Randolph's free throws.

    The Gators fired up 28 3-pointers. The 10 makes helped overcome 23-of-61 shooting (37.7 percent).

    "Those 3s hurt," Releford said. "They were momentum plays for Florida and gave Frazier his confidence. When you give a shooter like him confidence, he's just letting it go."

    Alabama didn't shoot much better at 38.6 percent (22 of 57) and made 2 of 12 from 3-point range.

    Will Yeguete and Dorian Finney-Smith each had 11 rebounds for Florida, with Finney-Smith racking up seven offensive boards.

    "Probably the story of the game was their ability to get second shots and offensive rebounds," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant, a former assistant under Donovan. "Eighteen offensive rebounds, that at the end of the day was probably the difference in the game."