GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Scottie Lewis, Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear Jr. hit two free throws apiece in the final minute of double overtime, lifting Florida to a 104-98 victory over Alabama in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams Saturday.
The Gators trailed by 21 points late in the first half and were down 80-75 with less than 2 minutes to play in regulation.
It was a stunning finish and equally staggering comeback for the Gators, who had hoped to use the league opener as a fresh start after a disappointing nonconference schedule.
Noah Locke had the play of the game for the home team. He stole Kira Lewis Jr.'s inbound pass and hit a layup with 21 seconds remaining in regulation, tying it at 83. Lewis missed a 3 on the other end, sending the game into overtime.
Florida (9-4) seemed to wear down the Crimson Tide (7-6) in the extra periods, especially after Herbert Jones and Galin Smith fouled out.
Lewis had a breakout performance with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Blackshear finished with 24 points and 16 boards despite picking up his fourth foul with 11:36 remaining in regulation.
Nembhard scored 25 points, Locke added 18 and Keyontae Johnson chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds for Florida.
John Petty Jr. led Alabama with 19 points. Lewis (17), Jones (15), Beetle Bolden (15), Alex Reese (14) and Jaden Shackelford (11) all scored in double figures.
The loss ended Alabama's three-game winning streak.
Florida did little right in the first half. The Gators couldn't make shots, couldn't defend, had three times as many turnovers as assists and missed their first six shots from 3-point range. They trailed by as many as 21 points in the opening 20 minutes — their largest deficit of the season — before scoring seven straight points. Nembhard hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to end the long-range drought.
Alabama: The Tide trailed just once — for less than a minute — until overtime. Despite the loss, Alabama will still lead the conference in scoring and 3-point shooting.
Florida: The Gators continued their season of inconsistency even in the victory. Coach Mike White revamped his offense following early season losses to Florida State and UConn, giving his players less freedom and more set plays, but Florida looked lost at times in its SEC opener.
Alabama: After opening SEC play on the road for the first time in three years, the Crimson Tide return home to host Mississippi State on Wednesday. Alabama has won five of the last six in the series.
Florida: Travels to play South Carolina on Tuesday. The Gamecocks won last year's meeting on Chris Silva’s dunk following a full-court pass from Felipe Haase with 2.5 seconds remaining.
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