NEW ORLEANS – The last time the Gators played Alabama they did it without Will Yeguete, who had suffered a concussion against Tennessee the game before. Without the safety net of Yeguete off the bench, Patric Young scored 19 points, hitting 9-12 shots from the field, and Erik Murphy hit 4-8 from the 3-point line as part of a 14-point night as Florida took a 61-52 win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Florida will have to find a way to stop Alabama's JaMychal Green in Friday's SEC Tournament quarterfinal game in New Orleans.
That is the kind of effort the Gators (22-9) will need from Young and Murphy today when they face Alabama (21-10) in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament at New Orleans Arena (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) because they’re still without Yeguete (broken foot against Auburn) and Alabama will have leading scorer JaMychal Green (13.8 points, 7.3 rebounds) in the lineup. Green missed the first matchup with Florida while serving a suspension for violating team rules.
The Gators drew a first round bye in the tournament after their three-way tie for second in the SEC earned them a #4 seed. Alabama advanced to the quarterfinals with a 63-57 win over South Carolina Thursday afternoon. In other SEC Tournament games, LSU (18-13) beat Arkansas, 70-57; Ole Miss (19-12) stopped Auburn, 68-54; and Georgia (15-16) upset Mississippi State, 71-61.
In addition to Florida’s game, the other quarterfinals Friday will pit #1 Kentucky (30-1) against LSU at 1 p.m.; Ole Miss against Tennessee (18-14) at 7:30 p.m. and Georgia against Vanderbilt (21-10) at 10 p.m.
Alabama figures to be much stronger on the inside this time against the Gators, who have lost three games in a row since Yeguete broke his foot against Auburn. Green has strong post moves and he can be effective away from the basket although he has a tendency to sometimes fall in love with his jumper instead of trying to pound it inside.
Because Green can carry the Tide offensively, expect Florida to play a good deal of zone both to protect Young from getting in foul trouble and to force Alabama to shoot the ball from the outside. The Crimson Tide was 1-6 on 3-pointers against South Carolina and just 4-16 in the first meeting between UF and Bama in Tuscaloosa.
Offensively, the Gators had to be encouraged by what they saw from both Young and Murphy in the loss to Kentucky last Saturday. Young ran the floor, posted up and hit 10-15 from the floor, while Murphy went 4-8 from the 3-point line and finished with 14 points. Young finished with nine rebounds and Murphy had eight.
If the Gators can get anything close to 35 points and 17 rebounds against Alabama, it’s going to be hard for Florida to lose.
* * *
This is a very important game for both teams as far as the post season is concerned. Florida is playing for either a #4 or #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and can probably lock that down with a win. A loss and the Gators could tumble down as far as #7 or #8.
Alabama probably punched its NCAA ticket with the win over South Carolina, but the Crimson Tide might need one more win to prevent being shoved onto the NCAA bubble.
* * *
Mississippi State’s chances to get into the NCAA Tournament all but died with the loss to Georgia. The Bulldogs are 21-11 but they are 2-6 in their last eight games.
Although Tennessee (18-13) has been a hot team of late, good enough to earn the #2 seed in the tournament, the Vols might need two SEC Tournament wins to get into the NCAA. Ole Miss (19-12) can help itself with a win over Tennessee, but the Rebels also need at least one more SEC Tournament win to have a chance at the big dance.
GAME NOTES: The Gators are 35-43 all-time in the SEC Tournament … Billy Donovan is 20-12 all-time in the SEC Tournament and has won all three tournament titles in UF history (2005-07) … The Gators are 4-7 all-time against Alabama in the tournament, 3-2 under Donovan.