Fresh off its takedown of No. 7 Tennessee on Saturday night, Alabama will go after its fourth win in a row Tuesday when the Crimson Tide host Florida in a Southeastern Conference matchup in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama (7-3) will be looking to steal a bit of the spotlight from the school’s football team — which will play Ohio State for the national title next Monday — when it takes on the Gators (5-1) as both schools are 2-0 in conference and tied for the lead in the SEC.
While Alabama shot just 41.9 percent in its upset of the Volunteers, its defense held Tennessee to 31.8 percent shooting. That defense helped the Tide earn their first road win over a top-10 team in 16 years.
To keep the Tide rolling, Alabama coach Nate Oats knows his team’s shooting will have to match its defensive energy when the Gators arrive in town.
“I tell our guys we have to be able to figure out how to win games when our shots aren’t dropping,” Oats said. “If we’re going to win when we’re on fire and lose when we’re not, we’re not going to have a very successful season. I tell them the margin of victory can be determined by how you shoot it, but we still have to win the game.
“Whether it’s offensive rebounds, getting to the free throw line, getting transition buckets — it all starts with your defense and your effort. The guy’s effort has been really good lately.”
The Tide are led by Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford at 13 points per game apiece this season.
John Petty Jr. and Herbert Jones are averaging 12.7 and 12 points, respectively.
In Florida, the Tide will be facing a team that is shooting .506 while holding opponents to .393.
The Gators are coming off a tight 83-79 SEC win over LSU. Four players had 16 or more points in that game. Three are averaging 11 or more on the season — Tre Mann (15.2) , Scottie Lewis (14) and Colin Castleton (11.7).
But it is a player who has not played in the last two games who may be Gator’s most important player. Leading scorer Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the floor in a game in December against Florida State. He remained in the hospital for 10 days but has returned to the program as an assistant coach.
The Gators, who postponed four games after Johnson’s collapse, have won both games since.
After the LSU game, Florida coach Mike White answered his second question from the media by saying, “The biggest point I should have made with the last question was that Keyontae is sitting over there with us. It’s another process we’re going through right now, with new role identity and offensive concepts and so forth.”
White is happy with where his Gators are at right now — especially after not even practicing for 15 days — but he’s far from satisfied.
“I don’t want to sit here and act like we’ve got it all figured out and that we’re a really good basketball team. We’ve got a ways to go,” White said. “But the adversity these guys have faced? Are you kidding me?”
Tipoff for Tuesday’s game at Coleman Coliseum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Eastern.
–Field Level Media