By Kevin Brockway
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson described it as a “great conversation.”
The Crimson Tide escaped the O’Connell Center with a much-needed road win, knocking off No. 23 Florida 68-50 by putting together a dominant second-half effort on both ends of the floor.
But things didn’t look promising in the first half when Alabama trailed 33-27 at halftime and committed 14 first-half turnovers.
“We looked like we never practiced before in our lives offensively in the first half, throwing the ball all over the gym,” Johnson said.
That prompted the halftime locker room talk from Johnson.
“Fortunately all the things we talked about at halftime, we executed,” Johnson said. “We came out and took better care of the ball, played solid defense, made sure we tried to reduce their success behind the 3-point line, tried to mix up our defenses a little bit.”
Alabama turned the ball over just five times in the second half, and as a result, outscored the Gators 41-17 in the final 20 minutes. With the score tied at 43 with 11:56 remaining, Alabama took the lead for good with an 11-0 run, which began by jumper from freshman forward Herbert Jones and continued with a 3-pointer from Avery Johnson Jr.
Collin Sexton then followed with a steal and driving layup to extend Alabama’s lead to 50-43. By the time sophomore Braxton Key made an inside layup to put Alabama up 54-43 with 7:29 left, fans the O’Connell Center started to head for the exits.
The Crimson Tide (15-8, 6-4 SEC) bounced back from a home loss to Missouri earlier this week to post its most lopsided win against Florida since beating the Gators 83-63 on March 4, 1989.
Sexton led four Alabama scorers in double figures with 17 points and six assists. Junior center Donta Hall added 14 points and 11 rebounds, going a perfect 7 of 7 from the floor. Three of Hall’s seven baskets came on dunks.
In picking up its second road win of the season, Alabama proved to be the more physical team, outscoring Florida 46-26 in the paint, outrebounding Florida 43-25 and scoring 14 second-chance points.
“Every game is important to us,” Hall said. “Just going out, dominating, doing what we have to do, crashing the boards, getting easy looks, finding the open man.”
Alabama finished with 12 assists and outscored the Gators 29-1 in bench points. Key scored 13 points off the bench, while Johnson Jr. had 10 points.
“Ball movement in the second half was incredible,” Johnson said. “Our bench did an amazing job. So I’m awfully proud of our guys.”