Gainesville, FL – Erik Murphy led four Florida players in double-figures with 15 points and added eight rebounds, as the eighth-ranked Gators rallied in the second half to take a 64-52 decision over Alabama in a late-season SEC battle.
Kenny Boynton scored 13 points and moved into second place on the all-time Florida scoring list for the Gators (23-5, 13-3 SEC), who bounced back from a loss at Tennessee on Tuesday and remain atop the conference standings.
"We just had to keep playing, keep pushing," Murphy said. "We knew this game was going to be a grind-it-out game."
Trevor Releford had 12 points for the Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-5), who could have tied Florida for the top spot in the SEC with a win, but instead lost for the second time in three games. Nick Jacobs and Trevor Lacey each had 11 points and five rebounds in defeat.
Alabama knotted things up at 33-33 just five minutes into the second half and didn't let up. The Crimson Tide went on a 12-4 burst, capped by Releford's tough fast break lay-in, which made it 45-37 with 12:23 remaining.
Just when it looked like the Crimson Tide's surge was too much, the Gators answered with a 19-2 run. Two Casey Prather free throws gave Florida a 48-47 lead with 7:48 to play, and Prather's spin move lay-in brought the O-Dome faithful to their feet for a 54-47 advantage before two Patric Young free throws capped the game-changing outburst.
Jacobs made one free throw a minute later to bring 'Bama within 56-48, ending a scoreless drought that lasted nearly seven minutes. The Tide followed with a layup by Andrew Steele to pull within six and turned it over with a chance to trim its deficit even further.
Back-to-back fast break layups by Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin helped Florida secure the victory in the final minute.
"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 or play 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 held an early 19-8 edge, until 'Bama chipped its way back to get within 24-22 with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Gators led 29-26 at the break, despite being outscored 18-10 on points in the paint and 14-2 in bench points.
"I thought our team was emotionally drained," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought we were exhausted. I thought we were a step slow. I thought we were distracted. I thought we became easily frustrated. ... To me, the SEC championship is a byproduct of doing things the right way. We've deviated from who we are. We've got to get back to that."
Boynton now has 1,940 career points and is 150 away from Ronnie Williams' top mark of 2,090 career points (1981-84) ... Florida has won six straight in the series and eight of the last nine meetings overall ... Prather finished with 10 points and nine boards ... Alabama scored just five points in the final nine minutes ... Florida made just 2-of-13 from 3-point range, but 22-of-26 from the charity stripe ... Alabama was just 4-of-10 from the line.