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Gators Roll Over Tide on Senior Night, 105-87

Florida avenges its overtime loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 21 with a dominant 18-point win over the Crimson Tide in Gainesville on Tuesday.

Photo: Gators wing WIll Richard; Credit: Zach Goodall

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators added their fourth Quad-I win to their resume on Senior Night inside the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, rolling over the No. 16 Alabama Crimson Tide, 105-87.

Junior Will Richard and Walter Clayton Jr. led the way for UF to post its second-highest scoring total of the year, accounting for 23 and 22 points, respectively. Each connected on critical buckets both from downtown, at the rim and from the charity stripe throughout the contest to elevate the Gators to the 18-point win. 

Florida finishes the 2023-2024 season at 14-1 in front of the home faithful as a result, improving to 21-9 (11-6 SEC) overall.

Like the first rendition of the Florida-Alabama matchup, both offenses started slowly despite both ranking in the top 15 in offensive efficiency. The Gators were 1-of-10 to open but connected on five shots from the line to hold an early lead over the Crimson Tide — which connected on three of its first eight.

But the slow start didn't dictate the contest, at least not for UF.

The Gators found their footing around the 14:30 mark, connecting on 10 of their next 15 attempts from the floor — including six in a row from 5:49 to 2:38 — to build a double-digit lead on the Crimson Tide just before halftime. A Mark Sears layup cut the deficit to nine before the buzzer, but Florida carried the bulk of momentum into the break.

Clayton led UF with 13 points and two assists during the first 20 minutes. Richard supplemented his effort with nine, including several energy-boosting fastbreak dunks as the Gators pulled away.

Florida kept its foot on the gas pedal when the action returned, allowing the lead to swell to as much as 23 in the second half. The initial surge was catalyzed by Zyon Pullin's aggressiveness off the dribble to the basket and a concerted effort from frontcourt members Tyrese Samuel and Alex Condon.

Riding the wave provided by the impressive opening stretch to the second half in front of a raucous sold-out crowd in Exactech Arena, the Gators' advantage continued to grow throughout the second period, reaching as much as 23 in a blowout of the nation's No. 16 team.

Richard's opportune excellence included three critical three-point makes and several transition finishes. None were bigger than his dagger triple from the left wing with 4:27 remaining, which officially ended Bama's comeback hopes.

He finished with 21 points, three rebounds and two steals on the night.

Clayton, Samuel, Pullin and Condon joined Richard as double-digit scorers for Florida.

The Gators' defense also produced at its highest rate of the year, forcing the Tide to shoot 21.7% from three despite Sears' 33 points. The latter's six assists to 13 turnovers proved to be a considerable difference-maker in the bout.

Florida will close out the 2023-24 regular season on Saturday, traveling to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores.

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