Tide falls to No. 1 seed Florida in semifinal round of SEC Tournament

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Charlie Potter

 

An impressive first half and the hopes of playing in the Southeastern Conference final vanished with a lackluster second half performance from the Alabama men’s basketball team.

The Crimson Tide (21-12) fell to the top-seeded Florida Gators 61-51 in the semifinal round of the league tournament, ending Alabama’s stay in Nashville, Tenn.

“Tough loss,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “Obviously, our focus coming in was to try to play for an SEC Tournament championship, and we fell short today. Florida, give them credit, I think they’ve been the best team in the league all year.”

The Tide led 28-25 in the first half and looked to be cruising to a spot in the championship match. But Florida’s Kenny Boynton took over after halftime, after being held scoreless in the first half.

Junior guard Trevor Releford said Boynton’s resurgence in the second half encouraged the rest of the Gators to step their games up.

“Boynton stepped up to the plate and made some big plays for his team, give him credit for that,” Releford said. “He just gave them that spark, and they just kept feeding off it.”

Florida head coach Billy Donovan said his team fought hard to overcome a physical and disappointing first half.

“I thought our energy got drained as a basketball team,” Donovan said. “[We] came back and fought in the second half, and they battled when things weren’t going great. I thought they showed some resiliency and some fight to kind of battle through the game because we didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half.”

This game resembled the regular season meeting between the two teams in Gainesville, Fla., on March 2 where Florida defeated Alabama 64-52.

Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey said he recognized the similarities of the two games when the Tide gained its largest lead of the afternoon.

“Andrew Steele and I were talking about it on the bench,” Lacey said. “When we went up 10 we were talking about it. How we needed to keep doing what we were doing, keep attacking them and just try to make plays. Just try to not let what happen happen again.”

In a game that would decide its NCAA tournament future, the Tide needed a win to survive in the at-large bid discussion. Now Alabama will have to nervously await until Selection Sunday to see if it will go dancing or play in the NIT.

Boynton led all scorers with 16 points. Patric Young scored 13 points with nine rebounds for the Gators.

Releford paced Alabama with 12 points. Trevor Lacey and Nick Jacobs each tallied 11 points.

The Tide averaged 45 percent (19-42) from the field, while converting 50 percent of its 3-point attempts. Florida shot 44 percent (23-52) from the floor but struggled from behind the arc, shooting 18 percent (3-17).

Alabama turned the ball over 10 times and did not record a steal in the game. Florida out rebounded the Tide 28-25.

Grant said his team was set on trying to with a conference championship. Now it will have to wait to see its postseason fate.

“It’s a tough loss,” Grant said. “Our guys in the locker room are disappointed. What I try to do with every game is take lessons and learn. I’ll have to go back and do that with this game and see what happens.”