No. 3 Florida (21-2, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) followed what has become its traditional game pattern in a 78-69 victory against Alabama (9-14, 3-7 SEC) Saturday inside a sold-out O'Connell Center. Instant Analysis takes a look.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Alabama coach Anthony Grant had seen enough at the 10:31 mark of the second half. With the Gators up 12 after a dunk by Chris Walker and a layup by Casey Prather, Grant called timeout. The Gators spent the rest of the game simply watering that lead. After two below-average games battling injury, Prather bounced back with 15 points and six rebounds.
HE STOLE THE SHOW: Generally looked to solely for rebounding and defense, Will Yeguete was the Gators most consistent scoring threat during a first half in which the team sputtered mightily at times. Yeguete's presence in the paint was a major advantage, especially once Alabama caught on to guarding Patric Young. Yeguete finished with a season-high 12 points to go with three rebounds and four assists.
THE STAT DOESN'T LIE: Florida is no stranger to starting slow, but the troubles have usually come solely on offense. Saturday, it was the defense with the majority of the troubles. The Gators came in only allowing opponents to shoot 38.4 percent from the field. The Crimson Tide shot 60.9 percent, led by star guard and team leading scorer Trevor Releford, who finished the day with 25 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Transition points didn't make life any easier, as the Gators turned the ball over seven times in the first half which Alabama turned into 15 points.
WHAT A PLAY: Billy Donovan urged his team to not let Alabama players get into the paint after the last meeting between these two teams in Tuscaloosa ended in closer-than-expected fashion. The message was heard loud and clear by Young in the second half. With about 13 minutes remaining in the game, Levi Randolph drove the lane. He never had a chance. Young leaped over him, emphatically blocking the layup attempt.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With today's win, the Gators are now off to their second-best start in school history with a record of 21-2. The 2006-2007 team started 24-2 and went on to win the national championship. Florida passed the 2005-2006 team Saturday, which started 20-2 before losing its 23rd game. That team, of course, also won a national championship. The defeat of Alabama marks the end of a three-game homestand which saw a variety of performances by Florida with a trend of poor first halves and a tendency to pull away late. The Gators have extended their winning streak to 15 games and their school-record home winning streak to 28 games.
UP NEXT: Florida begins a two-game road trip against Tennessee and Kentucky when it plays the Volunteers Tuesday night at 7 ET.