TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) With the outright Southeastern Conference lead in jeopardy, Alabama dug out of a double-digit hole before finally taking control in overtime.

Grant Nelson had 22 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots and No. 13 Alabama started fast in OT to beat newly ranked No. 24 Florida 98-93 on Wednesday night.

The Crimson Tide (19-7, 11-2 SEC) scored the first seven points of overtime and held on to preserve their perch atop the league standings over No. 5 Tennessee after a shootout between two of the nation's top 10 scoring teams.

Alabama coach Nate Oats said he was “still not quite sure how we figured out how to win it.”

“We're figuring out ways to win games,” Oats said. “If you're going to win league championships, which we're obviously in the hunt for with five games left, these are the games that you've got to figure out ways to win when you don't play well.”

Aaron Estrada scored on a follow shot with 7 seconds left after Sam Walters kept the ball alive. Estrada finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

Walter Clayton Jr. led Florida with 27 points but missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the end. Alabama's Mark Sears collected the rebound, drew an immediate foul and made two free throws.

Florida (18-8, 8-5) didn’t score in overtime until Clayton made a pair of free throws with 2:28 left, and he got two more on the next possession to pull the Gators within 92-89. Sears stripped the ball from Clayton on a drive to the basket and Rylan Griffen made two foul shots.

Alex Condon's short jumper cut it to 94-93 with 36 seconds left. Estrada snared the rebound after Griffen's missed 3. But the Gators appeared in charge much of the game after their first ranking under coach Todd Golden.

“I think we have a chance at a really special end of the year," Golden said. "Even though we came up short tonight, I think our effort indicates that.”

Alabama opened the extra period with two baskets by Estrada sandwiched around Griffen’s 3-pointer.

Alabama had six players score in double figures. Sears had 17 points and eight of Alabama's 19 assists.

Walters had 14 points and four 3-pointers. Nick Pringle scored 13 points before fouling out in overtime and Griffen scored 10. And Nelson had what Oats called “probably” his best game with the Tide.

Clayton also had eight rebounds and five assists. Zyon Pullin and Will Richard scored 17 apiece for Florida, Tyrese Samuel had 14 and Condon 10.

The Tide had rallied from a 10-point deficit over the final 9 minutes of regulation.

Both teams missed potential winning shots on their final possessions of regulation, sending it to overtime tied at 85-85. Micah Handlogten blocked Sears’ layup attempt at the buzzer.

It was the first time since 2007 the teams had met when both were ranked.

Alabama was without starting guard Latrell Wrightsell Jr., out with a head injury sustained on Monday.

“I felt like I had to step up, because losing a great shooter like that is definitely hard on our team," Walters said. “I’m glad we fought through.”


Florida: Had entered the rankings for the first time since December 2021 on Monday. Micah Handlogten had 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Alabama: The SEC's most prolific 3-point shooting team made just one of its first 17 attempts from 3 but finished 8 of 32. The Tide have won 16 straight SEC home games.

UP NEXT Florida hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Alabama visits No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday.


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