Alabama Falls In Final Minute Against Florida
Of the 13 SEC teams Anthony Grant has faced since taking over as Alabama head coach in 2009, he has beaten 12 of the 13, not including his own. And after Tuesday night’s result, he’s still one win short.
Alabama battled back from a 13-point halftime deficit but ultimately fell 52-50 to Florida at Coleman Coliseum for the 10th consecutive time in the series. The Crimson Tide’s last win against the Gators was an 82-77 decision in 2006 when Florida went on to win the national championship later that season.
Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith scored the game’s final points on a vicious one-handed dunk to put the Gators up for good with 21 seconds to go. He also blocked shots on both of Alabama’s final two possessions, including Levi Randolph’s potential game-tying basket with four seconds left, to secure the Florida victory.
“I got a lane, and Chris Chiozza did a good job with the pick-and-roll,” Finney-Smith said. “I had faith and kind of went for it, and just went up strong.”
For Grant, it’s his ninth consecutive loss against his former team. Prior to Alabama, Grant spent 10 years as an assistant coach at Florida under coach Billy Donovan before taking the VCU head coaching job at the start of the 2006 season. He left the school to become the Crimson Tide’s head coach in 2009.
“It was a tough loss for us tonight,” Grant said.
After trailing 35-22 to start the second half, Alabama (13-7, 3-4 SEC) went on a 19-6 run to tie it at 41-41 with 7:47 to go on Ricky Tarrant’s steal and layup. The Crimson Tide tied it again at 50-50 on Tarrant's 3-pointer with 2:52 left but failed to once go ahead during the run. The only lead the Crimson Tide held was at 2-0 in the game's opening minute.
Florida (11-9, 4-3 SEC) took command in the first half, thanks in large part to 12 Alabama turnovers. It built its largest lead of the game at 13 by the intermission.
“Coach tells us when we're at our best is when we play with a lot of energy and effort,” senior guard Rodney Cooper said. “That's what we tried to do in the second half.”
On Alabama’s final possession the first look was to go to Jimmie Taylor at the rim with Randolph being the second option, Grant said.
Alabama is now 2-4 this season in final-possession games.
Cooper had little explanation for the Crimson Tide's woes in those situations.
"I don't know. I guess all credit goes to the other team because they make plays," he said.
Cooper led Alabama with 14 points, while Tarrant had 13. Tarrant limped off the court after losing the ball on a possession with 4:28 left in the second half, favoring his leg. He later returned to play a critical role in the Crimson Tide's comeback attempt.
After the game, Tarrant was seen leaving the team's locker room on crutches. Grant said he didn't know the extent of the injury, but that it "wasn't a cramp." Tarrant has dealt with a "lower leg" injury since the start of the season.
Randolph, the Crimson Tide’s leading scorer, scored nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Alabama travels to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday. The Crimson Tide fell 70-48 to the Wildcats on Jan. 17 in Tuscaloosa.