GAINESVILLE — Florida trailed by eight and was in the midst of a shooting slump, a little more than 12 minutes and a dogged Alabama team standing between it and its spot alone atop the SEC standings.
"We were like, 'Man, we've got to turn it up right now, we cannot lose this game,' " Florida junior forward Patric Young said. "We want to win the (SEC) championship, and we want to be the only ones that are holding that trophy by ourselves. We just started out with one stop, rebounding the ball better and ran our offense."
The No. 8 Gators rallied, outscoring Alabama 27-7 in the final 11:03 to earn a 64-52 victory over the Crimson Tide at the O'Connell Center on Saturday. With Kentucky's loss at Arkansas, the Gators (23-5, 13-3 SEC) clinched at least a share of the conference championship.
Junior forward Casey Prather was the catalyst for the Gators' run. It was Prather who dished a pick-and-roll pass to Young for a dunk to start the run. He finished with 10 points and nine rebounds and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, the first two with UF down by six, then two more to give the Gators a one-point lead with 7:46 left.
"I'm pretty confident," said Prather, who has missed eight games due to injuries. "At the beginning of the season I had a couple of injuries, so that was tough for me to get over. I'm glad I'm just not injured and I'm finally able to play with the team."
Florida scored just two field goals in the final 10:22 of the first half and at one point went nearly seven minutes without scoring. Alabama coach Anthony Grant said a key to the game was the Tide's inability to get to the free-throw line: UF was 22-of-26 from the line, while Alabama (19-10, 11-5) was 4-of-10. It also didn't help 'Bama that it made just two baskets after taking a 45-37 lead with 12:23 remaining.
"I told our guys after the game, I had a rash of a lot of emotions," Donovan said.
"I was really, really, really disappointed in our team for a good portion of the game. One of the things that we've talked about with this group is just being resilient, and battling, and fighting, and being tough. And then, I couldn't have been more proud of them fighting through being down by eight. Our guys battled and fought, and found a way to get a lead and keep the lead. But give Alabama credit. I thought they came in really focused and ready to play."