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Richard, Clayton shine as Florida knocks off No. 16 Alabama

James Gilbert / Getty Images Sport / Getty

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Will Richard scored 23 points, Walter Clayton Jr. added 22 and Florida handled No. 16 Alabama 105-87 on Tuesday night to stay in contention for a top four seed in the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Gators (21-9, 11-6 SEC) won for the 10th time in 13 games and finished 14-1 at home this season. More important to coach Todd Golden, they moved a step closer to potentially landing a double bye in the league tourney.

Tyrese Samuel and Zyon Pullin chipped in 19 points apiece after being honored on “senior night." The graduate transfers helped Florida avenge an overtime loss at Alabama two weeks ago and hand the Crimson Tide (20-10, 12-5) a third loss in four games.

The biggest surprise was how easily the Gators controlled the rematch. They opened up a double-digit lead late in the first half, extended it to 20 midway through the second and never let up.

It was a huge sigh of relief for a team that hadn’t shown a knack for delivering knockout punches. Florida had lost five games, including three in the past month, after leading at the break. And several of those included double-digit advantages.

It was a trend Golden and his guys desperately wanted to reverse before the postseason. Now they have something to build on moving forward.

Mark Sears led Alabama with 33 points, including 29 in the second half. Aaron Estrada added 17 points, and Grant Nelson chipped in 12 before fouling out late.

Alabama's Rylan Griffen was helped off the floor and to the locker room with 4;15 remaining after colliding with Florida's Richard. Tide coach Nate Oats drew a technical foul for arguing it should have been a foul.

Florida shot 48% from the field and was nearly flawless (40 of 46) from the free-throw line. Clayton hit 15 of 16 from the stripe. The Gators, who were 2 1/2-point favorites, also outscored Alabama 27-8 on fast breaks.


Florida should have a chance to move back into the next AP college basketball poll.


Alabama guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr. returned after missing the last four games following a concussion. Wrightsell was seemingly on the road to recovery before suffering a setback last week. But he was able to practice Monday without limitations or lingering issues and was cleared to play at Florida.

He finished with two points in eight minutes.


Pullin and Samuel were among five players recognized in pregame ceremonies that included family, friends and framed jerseys. The other three were walk-ons Jack May, Alex Klatsky and Bennett Andersen. May’s father is current Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May.


Alabama: The Crimson Tide lost consecutive games for the first time since dropping three in a row in early December. This was the first unranked team Alabama has lost to since Clemson upset the Tide in late November.

Florida: The Gators have been close to unbeatable at home, with the lone loss coming against Kentucky to begin 2024. They closed the season with eight consecutive wins in the O'Connell Center but will need to bottle that energy and take it on the road for the postseason.


Alabama wraps up the regular season at home against Arkansas on Saturday.

Florida ends the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday.


AP college basketball: and