Alabama falls to Florida, 66-63

DAVID BRANDT AP Sports Writer Published:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Alabama's JaMychal Green was terrific on Friday, finishing in the paint, grabbing rebounds, dishing out assists and generally being a huge pain for Florida.

There's just one free-throw attempt he'd like to have back.

The Crimson Tide lost 66-63 to the Gators in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals, failing to convert two chances to tie the game in the final seconds.

Green led Alabama with 22 points while Trevor Releford scored 12 and Trevor Lacey added 11. Green had an opportunity to tie it with 20.3 seconds left but missed the second of two free-throw attempts.

"I knew I had to step up and make it," Green said. "Unfortunately, it rimmed out."

Lacey also had a fairly clean 3-point look at the buzzer, but it bounced off the front of the rim.

It was a tough ending for Alabama and especially Green, a 6-foot-8 senior forward who was 7 for 14 from the field and hit his first eight free throws before the crucial miss at the end. He also added 10 rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.

Erik Murphy had 15 points and Kenny Boynton scored 14 for the Gators, who shot just 38.5 percent (20 of 52) from the field, including 33.3 percent (10 of 30) from 3-point range.

The Gators had a 45-33 lead with 12:50 remaining after Murphy hit a pair of free throws, but Alabama responded with a 16-4 run to tie it at 49 on Green's three-point play with 6:52 to go.

Though the game was usually tight, the Crimson Tide never led.

"I think this time of year, you've got to find ways to advance and move on and we did," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Florida (23-9) will face top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Wildcats twice this season, but hope their postseason-tested team will be up for the challenge. Much of Florida's roster was around last season, when the Gators advanced to the Elite Eight.

"Our team, we're mature," said Boynton, who hit two late free throws to seal the victory. "We've been through everything, played the best teams throughout this year, so I think we'll come out tomorrow and be ready to play."

Alabama (21-11) lost for just the second time in seven games.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me," Green said. "I think we did a great job of just passing the ball and playing as a team."

It's been a struggle of late for Florida, which lost its last three regular-season games to Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

And this one wasn't much different -- except for the final result. The Gators shot just 32 percent (8 of 25) from the field in the first half and led 26-24 at the break after Alabama's Levi Randolph hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Alabama's defense had something to do with Florida's offensive woes. The Crimson Tide's bruising, grind-it-out style is completely opposite of the Gators, who like to run, shoot and turn the game into a constant sprint.

It wasn't until Erving Walker's outburst early in the second half that the Gators were finally able to get some separation. The 5-foot-8 point guard scored seven points in less than five minutes, shrugging off Alabama's physical guards and consistently getting into the lane, where he could finish at the rim or find another shooter around the 3-point line.

For a while, it looked as if the Gators looked would cruise, but Alabama erased a 12-point deficit in less than six minutes.

The Tide shot 56.5 percent (13 for 23) from the field in the second half and outrebounded Florida 32-27 for the game.

Lacey got a fairly clean look on the last-gasp 3-point attempt, but it was short.

"I thought we got a good look," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "I thought it had a chance to go in, but unfortunately, it didn't go in our favor."

Now Alabama will have to wait before finding out if it will advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

"Obviously, we feel good about what we have been able to accomplish over the course of the season," Grant said. "We just have to wait and see what happens."

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