Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

No. 13 Alabama basketball outlasts No. 24 Florida in overtime 

CW/ Riley Thompson
Alabama forward Grant Nelson (#2) pushes toward the goal against Florida.

With the race for the SEC regular season title growing closer and closer by the day, every game is crucial for Alabama men’s basketball, which currently sits atop the conference with an 11-2 record after defeating Florida 98-93 in overtime on Wednesday night in Coleman Coliseum.  

“If you’re going to win a league championship, these are the games that you’ve got to figure out ways to win,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said postgame.  

It was clear that, along with Oats, the Crimson Tide players understood the significance of the contest, as several players stepped up and played as if a conference title were on the line. 

Most notably, forward Grant Nelson had his best scoring game since Alabama opened its season against Morehead State back on Nov. 6. Nelson finished with 22 points along with eight rebounds and a season-high six blocks.  

Nelson, who has had his struggles this season, showed that he can step up and be the best player on both sides of the ball on any given night. 

“Talking about both sides of the ball, I think this is the best I’ve seen him since he’s been here,” Oats said.  

A significant factor playing into Nelson’s success against the Gators was Alabama’s struggles from beyond the arc. In the first half, the Crimson Tide shot just 2-18 from long range.  

Alabama’s struggles from 3 can be attributed largely to the absence of one of its best shooters in guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr., who missed Wednesday night’s game with a head injury sustained in practice.  

Entering the second half, the Crimson Tide shifted its focus almost entirely to the inside game, not attempting a 3-pointer until the 11-minute mark in the half. This allowed Nelson to use his size and athleticism to score in the paint. The Crimson Tide finished with 56 points coming from inside.  

Florida showed almost no weakness in the face of the rowdy Coleman Coliseum crowd. The Gators kept their foot on the gas throughout most of the game and even had a 10-point lead with around eight minutes remaining in regulation.  

Alabama fought back, though, returning to its signature 3-point game late in the second half as the game became a back-and-forth shootout in the final minutes. Out of Alabama’s five 3-pointers in the second half, freshman forward Sam Walters made three of them.  

Along with Nelson, Walters stepped up and had one of his best games of the season, scoring 14 points and even blocking two shots.  

“My mindset every time I go into the game is just to focus on defense and everything else will take care of itself,” Walters said. “I was just focusing on my defense and letting the offense come to me.”  

After the back-and-forth slugfest in the final five minutes, which featured five lead changes and three ties, Alabama possessed the ball with the score knotted up at 85 and 14 seconds remaining.  

As the seconds ticked down one by one, the ball was in the hands of one of the only players fans would trust in such a moment: guard Mark Sears.  

Sears drove in and went up for the score as he has done countless times this season. Fans held their breath as the ball soared through the air with just over two seconds left in regulation.  


Alabama was unable to get another shot off as the buzzer sounded and fans let out a collective groan of disappointment.  

Alabama carried its momentum from late in the second half into overtime, beginning the extra period with a 7-0 run. Following the theme of the game, however, Florida battled back to cut the Crimson Tide lead to just 1 point with 35 seconds remaining. 

With the narrow lead, guard Rylan Griffen attempted a 3-pointer, which ricocheted off the rim into the hand of Walters, who tipped the ball off the backboard to guard Aaron Estrada for the layup, which was the dagger in the heart for the Gators.  

Estrada finished with a near triple-double, scoring 20 points along with eight rebounds and eight assists. 

Florida failed to tie the game on the other end of the floor, leading to a foul that allowed Sears to tack on 2 points from the free-throw line with zero seconds remaining on the clock.  

“That was a wild game,” Oats said. “I’m still not quite sure how we figured out how to win it. I told our guys sometimes when you play bad, you’ve got to figure out ways to win games, and I thought we figured it out.”  

Alabama looks ahead to a tough road matchup with the No. 17 Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday. Kentucky, coming off a loss to LSU, is now tied for fifth place with the Gators in the SEC standings, with both teams sharing an 8-5 conference record.  

The game will be broadcast on CBS at 3 p.m. CT.   

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