Florida at Alabama
When: Saturday, 1 p.m. CT
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) Florida (13-11, 5-6 SEC)
Radio: 95.3 FM
The last time Florida’s basketball team lost to Alabama at Coleman Coliseum, both teams went on to bigger and better things — the win was important in helping Alabama to an at-large bid in the NCAA and the Gators left Tuscaloosa and proceeded to go on a 11-game winning streak that ended with the 2006 NCAA championship.
That was 13 long years ago and while Alabama has defeated the Gators in Gainesville during that stretch, the home drought is now at seven games, including a 73-52 home drubbing last year. In Saturday’s matchup, both teams are “lumped right here in the middle with a lot of us in the SEC,” according to UA head coach Avery Johnson.
“They play 10 guys, and they all get out there and do their jobs. They have a guy in Jalen Hudson that obviously scored 27 points on us here last year. We’re very familiar with him. He’s the sixth man and he’s a problem.”
The Gators come into Tuscaloosa at 13-11, although a strong non-conference schedule has kept UF in the NCAA Tournament conversation. Florida leads the SEC in scoring defense (63.5 points per game) and 3-point percentage defense (31.6 percent allowed.)
Florida does not have a player in the top 20 in the SEC in individual scoring. KeVaughn Allen, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, leads UF at 12.5 points per game.
He’s a guy like Quindarry Weatherspoon (of Mississippi State) that we’ve been competing against since my first year here. He’s just a strong guy with a terrific body. He’s very athletic and can shoot the three but is better at taking the ball to the basket.”
Senior center Donta Hall was Alabama’s MVP for most of December and January but has struggled to maintain that statistical level in February. In the Crimson Tide’s four games this month, Hall is averaging 7.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, scoring in double figures (11 points) only in last Tuesday’s loss at Mississippi State.
“I don’t think it’s fatigue,” Johnson said. “In some games, he’s battled foul trouble even though he is not a high-volume foul player, usually.
“I think some teams are making a conscious effort to get more bodies on him. They understand that with our lineup, he’s our primary rebounder. What we’ve got to do is get him some help. Tevin Mack, Herb Jones and John Petty can all help him, especially if people are putting two people on him on the glass.
“When you look at teams like Mississippi State, who start two centers, guys that are 6-10 or 6-11 and 240 pounds, then if we’re not functioning well offensively (on the perimeter), I think that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Donta. He feels like it is two against one.”
Rebounding has been in issue for Florida as well. The Gators are 13th in the SEC in rebounding margin (minus 1.2 per game.)
Alabama is expecting a large crowd for its first Saturday home game since Jan. 12. According to UA media relations, only 150 tickets remained on sale for the game as of Friday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.