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Alabama’s Richard Hendrix (35) tries to get rid of the ball as Florida’s Chris Richard, left, and Joakim Noah (13) pressure him.
AP photo by Phil Sandlin
Alabama’s Richard Hendrix (35) tries to get rid of the ball as Florida’s Chris Richard, left, and Joakim Noah (13) pressure him.

UF rallies in
Gator alley

Alabama loses to No. 1 team
after losing 18-point lead

By Mark Long
Associated Press Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No. 1 Florida was only as good as its point guard against Alabama.

Taurean Green scored 20 points in the second half and the Gators overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the 25th-ranked Crimson Tide 76-67 on Wednesday night and extend the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games.

The Gators were down 22-4 early in the first half and 42-31 at the break. Not coincidentally, Green was 0-for-6 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range in the first half.

He was a different player after halftime — and Florida looked much more like the defending national champion.

Green, the team's leading scorer and point guard, made six of seven attempts in the second half and helped rally the Gators (24-2, 11-0 Southeastern Conference), who matched a school record for consecutive wins.

The Tide (18-7, 5-6) dropped to 1-5 on the road in conference play.

"In the second half, I thought Florida enforced their will on us and that is why they are a great team," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said.

Richard Hendrix led Alabama with 16 points and eight rebounds. Alonzo Gee added 15 points.

The Gators have been down by double digits several times this season — possibly a product of getting every team's best shot — but they have bounced back each time with a strong second-half start.

This was no different.

Florida used a 14-4 run to make it 52-51 with 11 minutes to play.

Green made consecutive layups during the spurt.

Corey Brewer finished a steal with a reverse layup about a minute later, and Green hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Gators their first lead of the night at 56-54.

It was short-lived. Jermareo Davidson made a driving bank shot and Gee hit a jumper to put Alabama back in front.

The teams exchanged baskets down the stretch, but Green took over in the closing minutes.

He hit another 3-pointer, then made all six free throws in the final two minutes to seal the victory.

Green finished 6-of-13 from the field and had three assists.

Brewer added 16 points, while Joakim Noah and Al Horford were relatively quiet. Noah had 10 points and eight rebounds, and Horford had 12 points and six boards.

For all the hype Noah and Horford get for their dominance down low and all the attention Lee Humphrey gets for his 3-point shooting and Brewer gets for his defense and ability to slash to the basket, Green may be the Gators' most important player.

When he struggles, so do the Gators.

When he's on, Florida is almost impossible to stop.

The Gators hardly looked like the top team in the country — or even the conference — early in the first half.

They had three turnovers in their first four possessions, missed seven of their first eight shots and gave up way too many easy baskets to Davidson and Richard.

Florida trailed 22-4 with about 13 minutes to play in the opening half.

The Gators cut into the lead and got it to 39-31 in the closing minute thanks to a series of big plays from Marreese Speights. The freshman was 4-for-4 shooting in eight minutes, making two layups, a left-handed hook shot and a turnaround bank shot in the lane. He also had a big block that gave his teammates a lift.

Alabama weathered the run and pushed the lead back to 11 on Mykal Riley's 3-pointer with about 12 seconds remaining.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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