TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It was only a matter of time before reality caught up with the Crimson Tide. Alabama held serve in the first half only to be dominated by No. 12 Florida in the final 20 minutes, losing at home 61-52.
Florida was led by forward Patric Young, who finished with 19 points on 9 of 12 shooting.
Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele, who were suspended indefinitely before the Tide’s last game at LSU, returned to the starting lineup on Tuesday. Steele had 11 points and Releford finished with 8 points, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Big men, big advantage
Alabama couldn’t overcome the discrepancy in the paint with forward JaMychal Green still out due to suspension. Carl Engstrom, Nick Jacobs and Moussa Gueye played center-by-committee and the Gators took advantage. Florida’s starting forward, Patric Young, and starting center, Erik Murphy, combined for 33 points and 11 rebounds.
Jacobs and Engstrom were hamstrung by early fouls and couldn’t finish at the basket when opportunities were available. The three Tide big men ended the night with 10 points on 3 of 7 shooting.
Donovan praises Grant
Florida coach Billy Donovan came to the defense of his former assistant coach and friend after the game, saying that Alabama fans must understand the quality of coach they have in Anthony Grant.
“The one thing that gets lost in coaching is that everybody who shows up to games or watches the games on TV or covers the games doesn’t maybe totally report or understand the impact you have in trying to help these guys understand what it is to be successful,” Donovan said. “A lot of times there are a lot of changing of habits that goes into trying to build a program and build a team.
“I think Anthony looks at his job in coaching not only wanting to win and compete but what kind of impact he has on these guys. I think he realizes that as these guys move on they’re going to know this guy held me accountable and made me do the right things on and off the floor. Or they’re going to know this guy looked the other way and didn’t require any discipline and, you know what, it was just all about him trying to win games.
Donovan went on: "I don’t know what happened, nor do I care what happened. That’s between Anthony and his players. But my concern is for Anthony. He’s a man of character, a man of integrity. He’s coaching for the right reasons. I think the people here in Alabama should be proud of the kind of program he’s trying to build and the kind of men he’s trying to build. ... If he changes those guys in a positive way, regardless of what the scoreboard says, he’s done his job.”
Anthony Grant said prior to the game that for Alabama to compete, it would “take a great effort from us on the defensive end and we have to take care of the basketball and find quality shots on the other end.” Against Florida, he got two of the three. Alabama showed grit, diving for loose balls, and took good shots, ending the game shooting 40.9 percent from the field. But the Tide was careless with the ball, turning the ball over 18 times. The Gators turned those opportunities into 24 points.
Rodney Cooper, who hit for a career-high 28 points against LSU on Saturday, was just 2 for 9 shooting against Florida for 5 points. ... Releford didn’t start the second half because of an injured knee. He was able to re-enter the game, but grimaced in pain throughout. Alabama is already dealing with a short bench. If Releford was to miss any time, it could spell further strain on a crop of inexperienced bench players. ... Ten Alabama players saw the court and all 10 scored. The Tide won the battle of the reserves, outscoring the Gators 23 to 0 in bench points. ... Alabama will host Tennessee on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. CT.