Richard and Clayton shine as Florida knocks off No. 16 Alabama 105-87 and improves to 14-1 at home

Wed, Mar 6, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Richard and Clayton shine as Florida knocks off No. 16 Alabama 105-87 and improves to 14-1 at home

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Two weeks after getting bullied by Alabama, Florida refused to let it happen again. Not at home. And not on senior night.

Will Richard scored 23 points, Walter Clayton Jr. added 22 and the Gators handled No. 16 Alabama 105-87 on Tuesday night to stay in contention for a top four seed in the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Florida (21-9, 11-6 SEC) made 40 free throws - the program's most since December 1998 - and won for the 10th time in 13 games. The Gators finished 14-1 at home this season, and equally important to coach Todd Golden, they moved a step closer to potentially landing a double bye in the league tourney.

"We were very physical," Golden said. "We did what we needed to do to beat the best offensive team in America."

Tyrese Samuel and Zyon Pullin chipped in 19 points and six rebounds apiece after being honored before their home finale. The graduate transfers helped Florida avenge an overtime loss at Alabama last month and hand the Crimson Tide (20-10, 12-5) a third loss in four games.

"I thought Tyrese was a monster," Golden said. "And ZP was just a calming influence out there. Both those guys were just a huge, huge reason as to why we won."

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Samuel made all nine of his shots from the charity stripe, and Pullin was 8 for 8.

Florida took 21 more free throws than Alabama and made twice as many.

"It's not a recipe for winning games when you get doubled up at the free-throw line," Alabama coach Nate Oats said.

The biggest surprise was how easily the Gators controlled the rematch. They opened up a double-digit lead late in the first half, extended it to 20 midway through the second and never let up.

It was a huge sigh of relief for a team that hadn't shown a knack for delivering knockout punches. Florida had lost five games after leading at the break, and several of those included double-digit advantages.

"It's definitely not a good feeling letting a team come back on you," Clayton said. "We just got to be mentally tough, go up 10 and get your foot on the gas and not let up."

Added Richard: "I don't think we let ourselves off the hook (this time). I feel like we can get lazy once when we get up on a team. For us, it's just staying disciplined."

Mark Sears led Alabama with 33 points, including 29 in the second half. Aaron Estrada added 17 points, and Grant Nelson chipped in 12 before fouling out late.

Alabama's Rylan Griffen was helped off the floor and to the locker room with 4;15 remaining after colliding with Florida's Richard. Oats, who drew a technical foul while arguing it should have been a foul, said Griffen has a calf injury that will require more tests Wednesday.

"They were very physical with us," Oats said. "We had some offensive frustrations and some defensive letdowns."

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida should have a chance to move back into the next AP college basketball poll.

WRIGHTSELL RETURNS

Alabama guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. returned after missing the last four games following a concussion. Wrightsell finished with two points in eight minutes.

SENIOR NIGHT

Pullin and Samuel were among five players recognized in pregame ceremonies that included family, friends and framed jerseys. The other three were walk-ons Jack May, Alex Klatsky and Bennett Andersen. May's father is current Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May.

BIG PICTURE

Alabama: The Crimson Tide lost consecutive games for the first time since dropping three in a row in early December. This was the first unranked team Alabama has lost to since Clemson upset the Tide in late November.

Florida: The Gators have been close to unbeatable at home, with the lone loss coming against Kentucky to begin 2024. They closed the season with eight consecutive wins in the O'Connell Center but will need to bottle that energy and take it on the road for the postseason.

UP NEXT

Alabama wraps up the regular season at home against Arkansas on Saturday.

Florida ends the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll

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