Ripe off of their best conference win of the season, the Florida Gators are headed to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night. Alabama won the first meeting between the two teams, 68-50, and were dominant on the inside. The Tide outrebounded the Gators, 43-25, and outscored them in the paint, 46-26.
UF and Bama are 6th and 8th in the SEC standings, but both teams have struggled as of late. While Florida won their most recent game vs. No. 14 Auburn, the Gators dropped three straight games before that to Georgia, Vanderbilt and No. 16 Tennessee. The Crimson Tide are on a three-game losing streak of their own, having dropped consecutive contests to Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas. Tuesday night’s game can be seen on ESPN with Joe Tessitore, Sean Farnham and Laura Rutledge on the call. You can listen to the game on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Kyle Crooks and Mark Wise, or nationally on ESPN Radio with Bill Rosinski and Bob Valvano.
Virginia, the nation's No. 1 team, has 9 Top 50 KenPom wins. The Florida Gators also have 9 Top 50 KenPom wins. #Gators have one of the most unique resumes in the country.
— Jake Winderman (@jakewinderman) February 27, 2018
Strong, stiff defense has been Alabama’s identity all season and a big part of why they’ve had some success. The Crimson Tide rank 10th in the nation in defensive efficiency and 1st in the SEC. Alabama is also ranked in the top 40 nationally in opponent field-goal percentage (34th…41%), opponent two-point percentage (39th…46.1%) and opponent three-point percentage (30th…31.9%).
While Alabama has held opposing teams to 69.6 points per game this season, their last three games have been far different. The Tide allowed their last three opponents (Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas) to score a combined 82.3 points per game and recorded less steals and blocks per game in those contests than their season average.
Alabama is a team built on filling passing lanes, blocking shots and playing hard-nosed defense. In 8 of the Tide’s 12 losses this season, they’ve allowed opponents to shoot higher than 44% from the field. Bama is averaging only 66.9 points per game in their 12 losses this year. Opposing teams who hit 7 or more three-pointers against Alabama are 10-2 this season.
Alabama falls to Arkansas in Coleman Coliseum.
— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) February 25, 2018
Keys To The Game
- Defend the Interior: As mentioned before, Florida got killed on the inside vs. Alabama the last time these two teams met. The Gators allowed 11 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points to the Tide. Donta Hall went 7-7 from the field and made most of his shots from within two feet of the rim. Whether it’s giving Dontay Bassett more minutes, trapping in the post, or double-teaming Alabama’s frontcourt, it’s important for the Gators to try and stifle the Tide in the paint and make them uncomfortable where they’re most comfortable. Bama is only making 31.5% of their three-pointers in conference play, which is the 5th worst of any team in the league. The Gators can afford to give Alabama better looks outside than in.
- Limit Collin Sexton: The use of the word limit is important in context here. Realistically, you’re not going to completely stop Collin Sexton. The future NBA lottery pick is averaging the second most points per game in the SEC (18.2 PPG) and doing it on 43.8% shooting from the field. The freshman is also recording 3.6 RPG and 3.5 APG. Sexton has notched single-digit scoring in only 4 of the 26 games he’s played this season. Damage control is key.
- Force Turnovers: Florida jumped to a 33-27 lead at the end of the first half in their last game vs. Alabama because of their ability to force turnovers. The Tide committed 14 turnovers in the first twenty minutes leading to 15 points off of turnovers for the Gators. In the second half, Florida only forced 5 turnovers, scoring 3 points off of those giveaways. UF’s transition and halfcourt defense has to hold strong for 40 full minutes. If they can put that kind of effort together, they’ll be off to a good start.
- Chris Chiozza is just 5 assists away from passing Erving Walker for the No. 1 spot on Florida’s all-time assists list. He’s also three steals away from passing Kasey Hill for 4th on Florida’s all-time steals list. Finally, Chiozza is 23 points away from joining the Gators’ 1,000-point club.
- KeVaughn Allen needs 8 more three-pointers to join the top 10 of Florida’s all-time three-pointers made list.
- Kevarrius Hayes is 13 blocks away from passing Eugene McDowell for 7th on Florida’s all-time blocks list.
- ESPN: Florida is currently a No. 6 seed taking on No. 11 Middle Tennessee State University in Dallas in the Midwest region
- CBS: Florida is currently a No. 10 seed taking on No. 7 Creighton in Detroit in the South region.
- NBC: Florida is currently a No. 7 seed taking on No. 10 Providence in Detroit in the East region.
Is KeVaughn Allen back? Scored 24 and made six three-point shots in Florida's win over Auburn. Significant and much needed victory for the Gators.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 25, 2018