GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan doesn't feel like his team is playing its best basketball heading into March. But the No. 8 Gators summoned enough resolve Saturday to knock off Alabama 64-52 at the O'Connell Center. Down 45-37 in the second half, the Gators took control of the game with a 19-2 run, going ahead 56-47 with 3:18 left. From there, the Gators made enough plays to close out the game. "Our team was emotionally drained," Donovan said. "We are exhausted and I thought we were a step slow and distracted. We became easily frustrated." In particular, Donovan was upset with UF's assist-to-turnover ratio, which was 7 to 10. Donovan said he feels like the Gators are at their best when they share the ball and are at 15-20 assists per game. "I didn't think we played on offense like we needed to and we still are battled and challenged with that in terms or making the extra pass and trying to create more assists," Donovan said. Still, Florida (25-3, 13-3 Southeastern Conference) finished with four scorers in double figures, led by senior Erik Murphy's 15 points. Kenny Boynton added 13 points, Scottie Wilbekin scored 11 points and Casey Prather provided big spark off the bench with 10 points and nine rebounds. "I just tried to provide some energy," said Prather, who wore a bandage over his forehead after taking a gash to the head against Tennessee. "That's my role and I tried to play to my role." Subbing for struggling starter Mike Rosario, Prather scored eight of his 10 points in the second half. "We came out more focused in the second half because Coach Donovan told us we needed to persevere," Prather said. Trevor Releford led Alabama (19-10, 11-5) with 12 points. Trevor Lacey and Nick Jacobs added 11 points. The Tide scored just seven points in the final 12 minutes of the game. "It's always going to be a 40-minute game," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "We wanted to stay the course, not play too fast, too slow, and that helped us to get the lead. But a team as good as Florida will know how to respond to that." Florida got off to another strong start. Down 8-7, the Gators went on a 12-0 run, highlighted by inside baskets from Murphy, Boynton and Prather. Boynton then hit two of three free throws as he was fouled on a 3-point attempt to put the Gators up 19-8. But Alabama responded by tightening up defensively and hitting the glass. A putback from Jacobs cut Florida's lead to 21-14. Levi Randolph and Lacey followed with inside baskets to trim UF's lead to 21-18. A 3-pointer from Boynton extended UF's lead back to 27-22. But two more inside baskets from Jacobs cut UF's lead to 27-26. Patric Young then answered with a bank-shot off the glass for Florida with 1:10 left in the first half to put the Gators up 29-26. Florida shot just 40.9 percent from the floor and 22.2 percent (2 of 9) from 3-point range in the first half. Alabama outrebounded Florida 17-16 and scored six second-chance points in the first 20 minutes. Notes: Guard Michael Frazier (concussion) and forward Will Yeguete (knee surgery) returned to action for the Gators on Saturday. ... Former Gator players Jason Williams and Chris Richard sat courtside during the game ... Grant dropped to 0-5 against his mentor Donovan. Grant worked for 12 seasons as an assistant under Donovan at Marshall and Florida (1994-2006). ... Alabama outscored Florida 14-12 in second-chance points and held Florida to a season low 15.4 percent (2 of 13) from 3-point range.
- Sports & Recreation