By: Peyton Davis

TUSCALOOSA , Ala. —Following a road win in Baton Rouge last Saturday, the Alabama Crimson Tide looked to stay undefeated in league play, as they hosted the 13-10 Florida Gators on Wednesday night.

The energy in Coleman was unreal early on, and the team fed off of it playing extremely aggressive defense and getting out in transition—which led to a sizable lead within the first few minutes. 

The game plan for the Gators, as it so often is, was to feed senior center and one of the best bigs in America, Colin Castleton. Alabama sophomore, Charles Bediako was tasked with covering him early on—and the Gators had success going to that matchup initially. However, an early switch by Coach Oats by going small and bringing Nimari Burnett, Rylan Griffin and Jahvon Quinerly off the bench—while also switching Noah Clowney onto Castleton—gave the Florida offense fits early on.

The small ball lineup resulted in a scorching start to the half for the Tide, scoring 29 points in the first 11 minutes, thanks to hot starts by guards Mark Sears and Jahvon Quinerly. 

“I feel like it just got everyone involved,” forward Brandon Miller said. “I think playing the four is one of the abilities that I have—and I’ve got great guys to back me up.”

The dominance continued throughout the half as Bama stretched the lead, due in large part to the way the team shot from deep early on—hitting nine of their first 17 three pointers in the first 20. 

At half, Bama led 52-23, in what was one of their best halves of the season period. Sears and Quinerly dominated the Gators as primary ball-handlers, which opened up all aspects of the game for the home team. 

The play of Quinerly has been one of the better developments of the season for the Crimson Tide, as he has looked like the guy who won the 2021 SEC Tournament MVP the past few weeks.

“He gets everybody involved, and it’s great to play with a point guard that can do that type of thing and make everyone better,” Mark Sears said.

The second half started with Coach Oats going to the bench early because of the lacking energy on both ends from the starters—and The Gators were able to take advantage of Bama taking their foot off the gas to begin the half.

This offensive onslaught by Florida was led by Castleton, who had 12 points in the first ten minutes of the half. This effort led to Alabama’s star, Brandon Miller, being more aggressive and trying to get this game back in control for the home team.

The Tide began to find success on offense in the second ten minutes of the half, and the shift in momentum was directly aligned with the Tide matching Florida’s second half effort on the boards. 

Once they took back control of the energy and got the crowd back into it, the Gators could not match the haymakers that Bama kept delivering. 

In the end, the Tide used their dominant first half to propel them to a 97-69 victory over a very quality Florida team. 

The team may have kept a sizable lead throughout the half, but the team showed major maturity by picking up the effort when they needed to, and all in all, Coach Oats was extremely pleased with the way the team responded to the subpar second half they played last Saturday in Baton Rouge.

“We weren’t happy with our game at LSU. I think the guys understood that they have to play better,” he said, “I thought we played a lot harder and getting back to being who were are with our effort.”

Alabama will face possibly their toughest two game stretch of the season, as they travel to Auburn on Saturday, and then go to Knoxville to face the number six team in the country in Tennessee the following Wednesday.