NEW ORLEANS — Billy Donovan is fond of describing the 3-point shot as "the great equalizer" in college basketball. Friday afternoon, it was just that for Florida.
The No. 22 Gators suffered through another dismal shooting performance but made 10 3-pointers to Alabama's three to earn a 66-63 win in the SEC tournament quarterfinals at New Orleans Arena.
The victory halted Florida's three-game losing streak.
UF (23-9) advanced to play No. 1 Kentucky (31-1) at 1 p.m. today. It will be the third meeting between the teams this season. The Wildcats won the first two by a combined 35 points, including 74-59 on Sunday.
"We're looking forward to it," Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal said, "because we get another chance at trying to get a win against them.
"And it's a great team."
Florida shot 38.5 percent (20-of-52) from the field, including 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) from 3-point range, and was outscored 38-20 in the paint.
"Ten 3s, the greatest equalizer in college basketball," Donovan said. "We made seven more than they did. That was the difference in the game."
Down 12, Alabama (21-11) went on a 16-4 run, capped by a three-point play by senior forward JaMychal Green, to tie it at 49 with 6:52 left. The teams traded baskets. Then junior guard Kenny Boynton was fouled on a 3-pointer and made three free throws to give the Gators the lead.
On Florida's next possession, sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin was fouled while making a 3-pointer (but missed the free throw) to make it 57-51.
Trevor Lacey hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 left to pull the Tide within 64-62. Then with 20.3 seconds left, Green went to the line with a chance to tie. But he missed the second of two free throws, and Boynton hit two free throws to help seal it.
"I just wanted to knock them down," Boynton said. "I put no pressure on myself. I knew my teammates needed them, so I just knocked them down."
Lacey's 3-pointer didn't fall as time ran out for Alabama.
"At the same time we're disappointed we can't continue toward the quest for an SEC championship, I'm very proud of the effort that our guys gave," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant, a former assistant under Donovan. "I thought we had great fight in us."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]