The 2014-15 Florida men’s basketball team lives to fight another day.
The Gators (16-16) made nine 3 pointers in route to a 69-61 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (18-14) today in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Dorian Finney-Smith carried Florida to the victory, scoring a game-high 23 points while nabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. The second team All-SEC forward shot 7-14 (50%) from the field while making 4-9 (44%) from three.
Finney-Smith’s big day contributed to Florida’s best offensive performance in nearly two months. Florida scored its most points and made its most threes (9) since their 72-71 loss at Ole Miss in late January. Gator coach Billy Donovan was pleased with the team’s offense, but thinks they could have done more.
“I thought that we moved the ball pretty well,” Donovan said. “I felt like this, that offensively we had been getting better. (But) I thought we had some really good shots from the three point line that didn’t go down.”
Florida trailed by as many as eight points in the first half as the Crimson Tide started hot, making five of their first six shots to lead 23-15 midway through the first half. The Gators would answer with a 18-6 run over the remainder of the period to take a 33-29 lead at halftime.
Bama scored the first two baskets of the second half to tie the game, but Florida answered with a 7-0 run and never looked back. The Gators never trailed in the second half and led by as many as 12 points as they coasted to victory.
Levi Randolph scored 15 points to tie for an Alabama team-high in his final SEC game. The senior guard shot just 2-7 (29%) from the field, but was able to convert on 11-11 free throws.
The loss likely seals Alabama’s fate as a non-NCAA tournament team, and will place head coach and former Gator assistant Anthony Grant on the hot seat. Donovan believes firing Grant would be a mistake for Bama.
“I think if Anthony stays, doesn’t stay, they let him go, whatever (they do),” Donovan said. “I think it’s the biggest mistake…let’s put it this way, Alabama better hope he comes back.”
For Florida, they’re forced to turn around and take on the undefeated and top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow. The Gators lost at Kentucky on Saturday, but Donovan believes the short turn around and familiarity with UK will help Florida. The 22 hour window in between the Alabama and Kentucky games will be used to correct minor things from Saturday’s loss.
“We’ll try to make some corrections, things we need to build on, things we need to get better at,” Donovan said. “Try to do some different things, not so much differently but try to do things better. Try to concise things for our guys where we’re not overwhelming them in such a short period of time.”
Tip off tomorrow between the Gators and Cats is at 1 p.m., with coverage beginning at 12:25 on Country 103.7 The Gator.
Click below to hear Donovan’s comments: