NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) If nothing else, Dorian Finney-Smith helped extend Florida's rollercoaster season another day.
Granted, the odds work against it lasting beyond Friday's huge Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinal challenge against top-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky. But the Gators at least get a third shot at the Wildcats thanks to their junior forward's all-around play.
Finney-Smith had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Florida overcame a slow start to make nine 3-pointers and beat Alabama 69-61 on Thursday. Finney-Smith made 4 of 9 from long range to help them shake off an eight-point first half deficit and eventually build a double-digit lead in the second half.
Suspended for several games down the stretch for violating team rules, Finney-Smith was also a force on the boards on both ends for Florida. Besides grabbing nearly a third of the Gators' rebounds as they won that category 35-24, he had six of their 12 offensive boards that were four times what Alabama had.
Finney-Smith credited his performance to ''just coming out and playing with a lot of energy. I knew if we get in a scramble offensively, that gives me a chance to offensive rebound.''
No. 8 seed Florida (16-16) won several scrambles to keep their season alive.
The Gators' bench shut out Alabama 22-0 and outscored the Crimson Tide 14-4 in second-chance points and 11-5 off turnovers thanks to just six miscues. They completed a season sweep of the Crimson Tide and won for the third time in the past four.
Eli Carter added 11 points and Devin Robinson 10 for the Gators, who shot 43 percent and were 9 of 29 from 3-point range.
Florida coach Billy Donovan didn't seem too bothered by those 20 misses from behind the arc because of his team's ball movement that created the chances.
''I thought we moved the ball pretty well,'' he said. ''I felt like offensively, we had been getting better. I thought we had some really good shots from the 3-point line that didn't go down.''
Jimmie Taylor and Levi Randolph each scored 15 points for No. 9 seed Alabama (18-14), which tied the game and was close early in the second half but couldn't stop Florida's perimeter shooting or rebounding dominance.
''That's one of the things we talked about coming into today, their ability to offensive rebound,'' Randolph said. ''They did what they normally do (and) got some extra possessions, so it's tough.''
The Crimson Tide lost Rodney Cooper to foul trouble with 3:10 left after he scored 13 points. Riley Norris also had four fouls, which limited Alabama's effectiveness in trying to rally against Florida.
Retin Obasohan added 10 for Alabama, which shot 45 percent and controlled the paint 28-18 but was only 4 of 14 from behind the arc.
The Tide started off hot, making five straight and seven of eight including consecutive 3-pointers by Cooper and Norris respectively en route to a 17-9 lead. Alabama soon led 23-15 with 10:46 left before Carter's back-to-back long-range baskets sparked the Gators' 12-2 run over 5:28.
Free throws also helped as Florida made seven of eight down the stretch with its miss becoming a blessing as the Gators got the offensive rebound and fed Finney-Smith for a 3-pointer and eventual 33-29 halftime lead.
Tide coach Anthony Grant remains winless against Florida, the only SEC school he hasn't beaten, and Alabama also dropped its 11th straight to the Gators. The team could get an NIT invitation, but Grant downplayed questions about his future with the program.
''Haven't given it any thought,'' he said, adding that the Tide's RPI was worthy of an NIT bid. ''Our focus is on this year's team, controlling the things that we can control on a daily basis. Hopefully we can continue to play this season.''
Florida: Michael Frazier II went 1-for-10 from the field for five points for the Gators. ... Florida was 18 of 26 from the foul line.
Alabama: Rodney Cooper had 13 points for the Tide before fouling out with 3:10 left. ... Riley Norris had eight points and seven rebounds along with four fouls that limited Alabama.
Florida: Faces No. 1 Kentucky on Friday.
Alabama: Waiting and hoping for NIT bid.