February 26, 2006

Alabama takes down Florida

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Ronald Steele scored 19 points and Alabama was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 31 seconds to beat No. 12 Florida 82-77 on Sunday, sending the Gators to their third consecutive loss.

The Crimson Tide (16-10, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) survived a late 3-point barrage by snaring three straight offensive rebounds and sealing the win at the line.

Alabama further boosted its NCAA tournament resume with its third straight win over a ranked team, including last weekend's home win over No. 10 Tennessee.

The Gators (22-6, 8-6) trailed for almost the entire game and have dropped three straight by a combined 13 points. They fell into a tie with Kentucky for the No. 2 spot in the SEC East, which comes with a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

Brandon Hollinger's two free throws with 11 seconds left ended any comeback threat.

Both teams had five players score in double figures, with Florida's Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey bringing the Gators back with 3s.

Green scored 20 points and hit three second-half 3-pointers while all 15 of Humphrey's points came on 3s over the final 9:44. Green even hit three free throws and a 3-pointer in the final 13 seconds to spark one last-gasp rally.

Florida had cut it to 75-71 on Humphrey's 3 from the right corner with 1:17 left. Steele, Jermareo Davidson and Hollinger hit two free throws apiece to push the lead to 80-71.

Green sandwiched his two three-point plays between Hollinger's free throws.

Not everything went well for the Tide late. Jean Felix tried to punctuate the win with a breakaway dunk off an inbounds pass in the final seconds but missed it.

Steele had seven assists, repeatedly driving for baskets or to dish out assists to open teammates. But the Tide dominated inside, outrebounding Florida 42-33 and getting double-doubles from both Davidson and Richard Hendrix.

Davidson had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Tide, while Hendrix had 11 points and a career-high 17 boards. Jean Felix added 14 points and Alonzo Gee 11.

Joakim Noah and Al Horford had 12 points apiece and Corey Brewer finished with 11 for the Gators.

The Tide took advantage of Florida's poor shooting to build a 35-24 halftime lead, with the Gators making only 9-of-35 shots. Hendrix grabbed an offensive rebound - his 10th board of the half - and passed back to Steele for a bank shot with 7 seconds left.

The Gators made 8-of-15 from 3-point range and 15-of-16 at the line in the second half to rally from a 12-point deficit.

For more coverage of the Alabama Crimson Tide, check out BamaOnLine.com.
For more coverage of the Florida Gators, check out GatorBait.net.


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