New Orleans - The Alabama men's basketball team dropped a hard-fought 66-63 decision to the No. 19 Florida Gators in the second round of the SEC Tournament at the New Orleans Arena Thursday.
Senior forward JaMychal Green led the Crimson Tide (21-11, 9-7 SEC) with a game-high 22 points to go along with game-high 10 rebounds and team-high four assists, notching his 27th career double-double. Sophomore guard Trevor Releford scored 12 points, while freshman guard Trevor Lacey added 11 points, including nine in the second half. Florida (23-9, 10-6 SEC) was led by Bradley Beal, who scored 16 points for the Gators.
"I have to start off by giving Florida credit," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "A great game by them. They really made the plays they need to make to be able to win the game. At the same time, we're disappointed we can't continue toward the quest for an SEC Championship. I'm very proud of the effort our guys gave today. I thought we had great fight in us."
The Tide trailed 64-57 with 2:01 remaining in the game before mounting a furious comeback attempt that fell just short. Alabama scored six straight and had a chance to tie the game at 64-64, however Green missed the second of two free throws with 21 seconds remaining. After Florida made two free throws to push the score to 66-63, Lacey's deep three-point attempt at the buzzer came up short giving the Gators the victory.
"The difference in the game was the three-point line," Grant added. "Florida was able to make ten three's and we knew coming into the game that would be key. They had guys step up, make some contested one's. It was very difficult from a defensive standpoint to contain them. We had our opportunities and like told the guys in the locker room after the game, as a coach that's all you can ask for."
Alabama fell behind 7-1 in the early going before reeling off six straight points, holding the Gators without a point for over five minutes, to tie the score at 7-7. Following the Alabama run, Florida outscored the Tide 8-2 over the next 2:22 to jump back in front 15-9, but once again saw Alabama come back to tie the score at 17-17 with just over five minutes remaining in the half.
From there, the Gators scored nine of the game's next 13 points to take a five-point advantage, but a deep three-point basket at the buzzer by freshman guard Levi Randolph helped Alabama cut the halftime score to 26-24.
Following intermission, Alabama opened the second half with a Green fast-break dunk on an assist from senior guard Andrew Steele to tie the game 26. The Gators responded with a 19-7 run to take their biggest lead of the game, 45-33, at the 14:01 mark of the second half before the Tide battled its way back.
Alabama unleashed a 13-2 run on Florida, keyed by six straight points from Lacey and four straight from Green, to cut the Gator advantage to 47-46 at the 8:17 mark. After a jump shot from freshman Nick Jacobs tied the score at 51-51 less than two minutes later, Florida scored six straight to take a 57-51 lead before pushing the advantage to 64-57 at the 2:01 mark of the half.