Alabama Faces No. 8/6 Florida In SEC Showdown

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Junior guard Trevor Releford is averaging 24.7 ppg over his last three contests.
Junior guard Trevor Releford is averaging 24.7 ppg over his last three contests.

March 1, 2013


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team will travel to Gainesville, Fla., where it will take on the No. 8/6 Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon. The contest is set to tip off at noon ET (11 a.m. CT) and will be televised on ESPN.

"We are looking forward to the challenge of going on the road and playing a team the caliber of Florida," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "I'm really impressed watching them on film and what they've been able to accomplish over the course of the season. Obviously, they are coming off a tough loss at Tennessee and they were not 100-percent healthy at the time. We understand they will have a full complement of players for our game. We're 15 games into the conference schedule and we find ourselves tied for second place. The things we've talked about, having the opportunity to control our destiny. It's in our hands and I think the guys are excited about it. We're looking forward to the challenge."

The match-up will pit the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference heading into the final three regular season games. The Tide (19-9, 11-4 SEC) comes into the contest trailing the Gators (22-5, 12-3) by one game in the league standings.

The game will have a little extra drama as Alabama head coach Anthony Grant will face off against his mentor Billy Donovan, but it will mark just the second time he has faced Florida in Gainesville. Grant served as Donovan's assistant coach at UF from 1996-2006.

The Crimson Tide comes into the contest having won five of its last six games and 10 of its last 13 following a 61-43 victory over Auburn on Tuesday night. Junior guard Trevor Releford finished the contest with a game-high 21 points, marking his team-leading fifth 20-point contest of the season. Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey added 12 points, while sophomore forward Nick Jacobs recorded his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Releford comes into the game as the team's top scorer. An SEC Player of the Year candidate, Releford ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 15.6 ppg. He also tops the squad in three-point field goal percentage (.425), steals per game (2.2) and free throw shooting (.815), and ranks second on the team in assists (2.7 apg).

Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey is second on the team in scoring with 11.9 points per game. Coming into Saturday's contest, Lacey leads the team in threes made (47) and attempted (129) and assists (3.1 apg).

Combined, the duo of Releford and Lacey contribute 27.5 points per game, or approximately 43 percent of the team's 63.5 points per game.

Meanwhile, Cooper also averages double figures with 11.0 ppg and has reached double-digits in seven of his last eight contests coming into Saturday's game. He leads the team in rebounding (4.8 rpg), offensive rebounding (2.0 orpg) and total field goals attempted (277).

Florida comes into Saturday's showdown sporting a 22-5 overall mark and is on top of the conference standings with a 12-3 record in SEC play. The Gators have lost two if their previous three contests, both of them coming on the road. Most recently, Florida dropped a 64-58 decision at Tennessee last Tuesday night.

UF owns a perfect 13-0 record at home this season, including a 7-0 mark against league competition.

The Gators boast four players who are averaging double-figure scoring, led by senior guard Mike Rosario's 13.1 points per game. Senior guard Kenny Boynton is second on the team with 12.5 points per contest, followed by senior forward Erik Murphy (12.3 ppg) and junior center Patric Young (10.4 ppg).

Young also tops the team in rebounding (6.5 rpg) and field goal percentage (.609), while Murphy is the Gators' top three-point shooter, knocking down 46.7 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (57-of-122). Additionally, junior guard Scottie Wilbekin leads UF in assists (5.4 apg) and steals (1.6 spg), while also contributing 9.0 ppg.

As a team, Florida ranks at the top in the SEC in numerous categories, including scoring defense (1st-53.5), scoring margin (1st-plus 19.6), field goal percentage (1st-.489), field goal percentage defense (1st-.375), three-point field goal percentage (1st-.384) and three-point field goal percentage defense (1st-.300).

Alabama and Florida will square off for the 134th time in series history when they meet on the hardwood on Saturday afternoon. It marks the eighth-most games UA has played against any one opponent. The Crimson Tide owns a 73-60 edge in the series. However, the Gators have won five straight games over the Crimson Tide and 16 of the last 19 contests played between the two schools.

 The contest can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink on the call. Fans can follow the in-game action with live tweets on the team's official Twitter page @AlabamaMBB.

Head Coach Anthony Grant

On what Florida is known for and what you think about when thinking about Florida:

"First and foremost, I think they are a very good team. Coach [Billy] Donovan does a great job. From a coaching standpoint, you're talking about a team that returns a lot of veterans. Any time you return that type of experience and have enjoyed that type of success, you're going to be a really good team and that's what they've shown all year. The challenge for us is always going to be what we do on the defensive end, we have got to a great job from a defensive standpoint. They are a very balanced team with several guys that have the ability to score the basketball. They are a team that really attacks in transition with a variety of ways in which they run their offense. We've got to be really locked in and do a great job on the defensive end. This is a team that defensively is ranked the best in our league in points allowed, holding their opponents' field goal percentages down and holding down three-point percentages as well. Being able to take care of the basketball, find quality shots, and score at a consistent pace are things we have to do great."

On what's challenging coaching against a Billy Donovan:

"He's got a great team. He's done a great job coaching his team so the challenge is going against a team that has been one of the best in the league for a long period of time. Our aspiration is to play for championships, so I'm looking forward to challenging our ball club against his ball club. Our relationship is way bigger than basketball, so it's our team against his team and we're going to do everything we can to go and try and win a ball game."

On any key matchups:

"They are very balanced team. The difficult thing is they've had a few players that have been out. [Michael] Frazier has only been out one game, but [Will] Yeguete has been out for several games. Adding them back to the mix, now you have to factor in some different things that maybe you haven't had to see. It makes them deeper, it allows them to do some more things from a defensive standpoint that they hadn't done. Just the preparation is a challenge with the variety of things you have to be prepared for against a team like Florida. Match-up wise, there isn't an individual thing that you look at and say, this one individual matchup is going to be a key. It's a basketball game; a lot of different things are going to come into play."

Senior Guard Andrew Steele

On how excited the team is to be playing for first place in the SEC:

"It's really exciting. We set our goals at the beginning of the year. For us to be 15 games in and have complete control on what we do going forward, it's exciting. Just the opportunity to be able to play again is exciting in itself. We understand everything that's at stake, and I think our guys are going to be ready to go."

On if they treat the upcoming Florida game like any other game or if they treat it like a big game:

"Every game we play is a big game. The excitement of being able to go compete and try to win is good. I think one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to make the game bigger than what it is. We respect Florida, they're a good team. They're 12-3 and we're 11-4 (in the SEC), so it's not like we're going to go in thinking we're in over our heads. We fully expect to go out and win." 

On what it's like to play at Florida:

"It's really tough. Their fans do a good job of keeping their team into the game. It's going to be a very, very tough environment, but I think this year we've been in a situation like that before. Once the game starts, I think you kind of just block everything out. We understand that the game is going to be settled on the court."

On who stands out on the Florida team:

"I think one of the challenging things is that they're really balanced. I don't think they necessarily have the one player that they go to. I think, though, if there's one person who would probably be the most difficult to match up, it's (Erik) Murphy. He's 6-10, he can play inside-out, he can really shoot the ball. He hurt us a lot shooting last year, so I think they do a lot of things with him that are tough for us in terms of being able to rotate and try to take him away from getting threes, because he's 6-10 and he's always going to be able to get them off. I don't think they have just one player in particular that we have to worry about. They're a really balanced team, and that's what makes them tough to beat."

On a young team taking on the tough Florida environment:

"Sometimes a good thing with having a young team is that sometimes what they don't know can't hurt them. Other than Trevor (Releford) and me, nobody has played in that environment before. Not to say they necessarily have any fear in any situation, but they can't go in expecting any bad things, because they don't know exactly what to expect. We try to tell them from our experience, but the only way they can really go through it is if they experience it themselves. I don't have any worries that they're going to be ready to go. I think they've proven this year and even last year that in tough situations they've been able to step up. But it's going to be a team effort. We can't just depend on those guys to step up. We have to come ready to play."