Florida men’s basketball was handed its first SEC defeat on Wednesday in a loss to Alabama. In the 86-71 loss, three Crimson Tide players, including guard Keon Ellis, forward Herb Jones and guard Jaden Shackelford all notched 16 points to lead a balanced and effective attack. The win for the Tide puts them at the top of the SEC leader board. Alabama and Kentucky are now the only two teams left unbeaten in league play.
Alabama put Florida’s woeful defensive efforts in the spotlight as they managed to have five players in double figures. The Gators had no answer for the balanced, spread the ball type offense that thrives when they can push the ball quickly in transition. At the half, the Tide’s leading scorer had tallied six points, while five other players also had five points. An offense that balanced could prove to be challenging for any team to stop.
A key component for the Gators, Scottie Lewis, caught two fouls early in the game and spent critical minutes on the bench. Florida kept it within single digits the majority of the first half and only trailed 39-32 at the break.
Plaguing the Gators in the first half were offensive rebounds and second chance possessions for Alabama as the Tide grabbed 11 offensive boards in the half. Additionally, UF was unable to capitalize at the free throw line, shooting just 50% from the stripe for the half.
Second Half Flat
After halftime, the Gators came out with enthusiasm at the tip, playing the best 10 minutes of basketball in the entire game. However, the burst of offensive efficiency was short lived. Florida tied the game at 39 all, hitting their first three shots out of the gate. A 12-2 run by the Tide spurred by big time plays from Ellis and John Petty who hit a long three pointer quickly helped extend the lead to 16.
Bright spots for the Gators included a new season-high from guard Tyree Appleby with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists and an almost double-double from big man Colin Castleton with 13 points and eight rebounds. Both are new to the court for the Gators as Appleby is a transfer from Cleveland State and Castleton a transfer from Michigan.
The Tide shot 46% from the floor on the night and the Gators had no answers from the mismatches created by the size of guards like James Rojas ( 15 points- 7 rebounds- 1 assist) and John Petty ( 12 points- 2 rebounds-2 assists). In comparison, the Gators shot 40% from the floor, but heavily struggled inside the arc.
After their worst performance in league play, the Gators will head back to Gainesville to prepare for Kentucky. The Wildcats will face off with the Gators at Exactech Arena on Saturday at 5 p.m. The Gators will look to defeat the reigning SEC Champions to get back in the swing of things. Kentucky is coming into town after a close win over Vanderbilt, overcoming one of their worst starts to a season to date.