9:00 PM ET, January 8, 2008
Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Nick Calathes scored 21 points and helped spark Florida's second-half surge for a 90-83 victory over Alabama Tuesday night in the first Southeastern Conference matchup of the season.The Gators (14-2) trailed most of the way before Calathes scored five straight to break open a 71-all game and start an 11-0 run. Florida then made 6-of-8 free throws over the final 51 seconds to help win its seventh consecutive SEC opener, the league's longest active streak.Alabama (11-5) got a reprieve when Calathes missed a free throw attempt with 24 seconds left and Florida leading 86-83, but Dan Werner grabbed the offensive rebound and sank two from the line.The Crimson Tide then missed two straight 3s. 'Bama has lost five SEC openers in a row.Calathes scored 17 points in the second half and the Gators made 11-of-22 3-pointers. Jai Lucas added 19 points, Walter Hodge had 17 and Werner finished with 12.Huge nights by Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee weren't enough for Alabama.Gee scored a career-high 32 points while Hendrix had 24 points and 16 rebounds despite struggling at the line. He made just 12 of 21 free throws but hit six in a one-minute span late to keep Alabama alive.Freshman point guard Rico Pickett had nine assists but had only one in the second half and also committed six turnovers.Lucas, Hodge and Calathes all hit three 3s for the Gators. The two-time defending national champions shot 56 percent in the second half.Alabama answered Florida's 11-0 run with eight straight points, starting with Gee's two baskets off offensive rebounds. Lucas then drove for an uncontested layup with 1:12 left to push it back to 84-79. Hendrix hit two free throws before Florida iced it at the line.The two-time defending national champions trailed most of the game, taking their first lead with 13:21 in the game on a 13-3 run.The momentum might have changed on the final shot of the first half. Hendrix hit a basket inside with 6.5 seconds left and was fouled, but missed the free throw. Lucas then hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer to cut it to 47-40 after the Tide had rattled off six straight points.The young Gators have won nine of their last 10 games and are trying to continue their reign over the SEC. Joakim Noah & Co. had boasted a 44-13 league mark the last three seasons and capped all three with SEC tournament titles but Florida's roster was overhauled with most of the key players heading to the NBA.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||29-57 (.509)||30-68 (.441)|
|3P Made-Attempted||11-22 (.500)||8-26 (.308)|
|FT Made-Attempted||21-26 (.808)||15-26 (.577)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||21 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|