Florida downs No. 19 Alabama 102-88 to reach semifinals of SEC Tournament


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Walter Clayton Jr. scored 23 points and led five Gators in double figures as sixth-seeded Florida routed No. 19 Alabama 102-88 Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

With losses by regular season champ Tennessee and No. 2 seed Kentucky earlier Friday, this marked the first time the SEC’s top three seeds all lost their tournament openers since 1983. That tournament was played in Birmingham, Alabama, and Georgia won the title and wound up reaching the Final Four.

Zyon Pullin added 19 points, Tyrese Samuel had 18, Alex Condon 12 and Will Richard had 10 for Florida (23-10). The Gators will face No. 7 seed Texas A&M, a 97-87 winner over ninth-ranked Kentucky, in the semifinals Saturday.


Alabama forward Grant Nelson (2) battles Florida center Micah Handlogten (3) for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Alabama forward Grant Nelson (2) battles Florida center Micah Handlogten (3) for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Alabama (21-11) came in having won the SEC regular-season title and tournament championship two of the past three years under coach Nate Oats. Now the Crimson Tide is heading home early to start preparing for Sunday’s NCAA Tournament bracket announcement.

Mark Sears led Alabama with 22 points. Aaron Estrada added 17, Nick Pringle finished with 12 and Grant Nelson had 11.

The Crimson Tide scored the first eight points. Florida tied it up at 17 and again at 31. Then the Gators seized control with a 21-2 run to finish the half and take a 48-33 lead into the locker room. They started the second half where they left off, scoring the first four points.

Florida led by as much as 82-58 on its way to scoring 100 points against Alabama for a second straight game between the teams.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators split during the regular season with Alabama, losing 98-93 in overtime on the road and winning 105-87 in Gainesville. The Gators advanced to the quarterfinals with an 85-80 victory over Georgia in the opening round. … They had a big edge at the free throw line, knocking down 31 of 36 compared to 16 of 23 for Alabama.

Alabama: Oats now is 7-2 in SEC Tournament games. He has signed an extension that will go to the Board of Regents next week.

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