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Stone guides No. 23 Florida past Alabama

Stone guides No. 23 Florida past Alabama
Published On: Wed, Jan 11
Dec 21, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Tigers guard/forward Nick King (5) lays the ball up over Southeast Missouri State Redhawks forward Tyler Stone (33) during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Tigers beat the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks 77 - 65. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Stone picked a good time for the third double-digit scoring night of his young career.

The freshman forward scored 14 points and drained all three of his 3-point attempts to help No. 23 Florida post an 80-67 victory over Alabama on Tuesday in Southeastern Conference play at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

His output was necessary and also surprising as the Gators (13-3, 4-0 SEC) won their sixth consecutive game. Stone was averaging just 3.9 points entering the contest.

"This is the second game when he has arguably been the best player on the floor," said Gators coach Mike White, alluding to Stone's season-high 15-point effort against Miami on Nov. 27. "It's just another testament to a kid who is biding his time, working every day, staying ready. You never know when you're number is going to be called, and he did that. He was fantastic."

Senior guards Canyon Barry and Kasey Hill added 13 points apiece for Florida, which defeated Alabama for the 12th time in the past 13 meetings.

Freshman forward Braxton Key scored a season-best 24 points for the Crimson Tide (9-6, 2-1). Sophomore forward Donta Hall added 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting for Alabama, which had its four-game winning streak halted.

The Crimson Tide sabotaged their chances by making just 16 of 32 free-throw attempts.

"It's all psychological," Alabama coach Avery Johnson said. "It's concentration. I saw several off by a wide margin."

The Crimson Tide also had trouble taking care of the basketball. Florida utilized a trapping defense to force 18 miscues.

"We didn't respond well in practice yesterday to the same type of situation," Johnson said. "We had to do it over and over again. Our scout team gave us trouble, so we knew Florida was going to give us trouble."

Hill recorded five steals as the Gators posted a 27-10 edge in points off turnovers.

Making Hill's effort more impressive is that Florida feared he might have to sit out the contest due to strep throat.

"He made the decision this morning at shootaround that he felt good enough to give it a shot," White said. "He showed a lot of toughness."

The Gators ran up an early big lead, watched the Crimson Tide fight back and then dominated the final seven minutes.

Florida led 34-16 after a 3-pointer by Stone with 5:11 left in the first half before momentum turned.

Alabama rallied to within single digits late in the half and then trailed by nine points early in the second half before making another powerful charge.

Back-to-back dunks by Hall gave the Crimson Tide a 46-45 advantage with 14:42 remaining for their first lead since the opening minutes. Alabama stretched its lead to 53-47 on two free throws by Key with 10:56 to play.

"We got off to a slow start in the second half for whatever reason defensively," White said. "They gained momentum, they gained confidence, and Braxton Key was really good."

The Gators pulled within one point on four occasions before finally going ahead 61-59 on Stone's 3-pointer with 6:42 left. Stone's shot was early in a 16-4 run that included a monstrous dunk by junior center John Egbunu to give Florida a nine-point edge.

"If I get going defensively, I know I can get myself going offensively," said Stone, who played 16 minutes. "If you play good defense, it will translate to offense all the time."

Barry knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 75-65 with 1:29 left to seal it.

The Gators led by as many as 18 points before settling for a 38-31 halftime lead.

Florida held its first double-digit lead at 26-15 on a jumper by Hill with 10:07 remaining. Stone drained a 3-pointer to push the advantage to 18 nearly five minutes later.

The Crimson Tide missed nine straight field-goal attempts before Key connected on a 3-pointer to start a 14-2 burst. Key culminated the run with an inside hoop to make it a six-point game with 1:19 to play.

Key scored 15 first-half points on 6-of-9 shooting.

NOTES: Gators sophomore SG KeVaughn Allen was the SEC Player of the Week for last week's efforts, but he tallied just six points on 2-of-7 shooting against Alabama. ... The Crimson Tide fell to 0-6 when allowing more than 62 points. ... The victory is Florida's 23rd in the past 27 meetings versus the Crimson Tide. ... Alabama entered the contest with a 65.6 free-throw percentage before Tuesday's 16-of-32 effort.

Read the complete news article here...

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