BY: Darek Sharp
All five Gator starters registered in double figures Saturday as Florida held off Alabama 78-69 at the O'Connell Center. The third-ranked Gators are now 21-2 overall, 10-0 in the SEC.
Trevor Releford scored 22 points, 16 of them in the first half as Bama played the Gators evenly. But he had no help while Florida spread around the scoring. Scott Wilbekin led the way for Florida with 16 points, going 3-for-5 on 3-pointers. He followed up Michael Frazier's 3 with one of his own to make it 50-41 af the five-minute mark of the second half and from there Bama never truly threatened. The lead grew to as high as 14.
Alabama did pull within seven in the last two minutes and had a chance to draw closer, but quickly fumbled away that possession.
Florida looked like it might roll early with an 8-0 lead but behind Releford's great shooting actually went ahead by seven. A Casey Prather layup and Frazier 3 got the game back towards the Gators' liking, and Wil Yeguete hit three layups in the final two minutes of the half to help even things up 36-all.
Frazier finished with 14 points, Prather 13, Yeguete 12 (all in the first half) and center Patric Young scored 11. Dorian Finney-Smith struggled to score but had a team-high five assists as Florida posted a season mark in that category with 21.
The Gators shot 62.5 per cent from the floor. Releford went 7-for-10 from the field for Bama, which fell to 9-14 overall and is next-to-last in the SEC.
Saturday afternoon's action aired on WDAE. Florida's next two games are on the road, starting with a Tuesday night trip to Tennessee (7 p.m.). After that a hotly-anticipated trip to Kentucky awaits (next Saturday, 9 p.m.).