Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Gators Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 21st 2024

High-scoring guard Mark Sears aims to extend his streak of 20-point outings to nine when No. 13 Alabama entertains No. 24 Florida in a Southeastern Conference showdown on Wednesday night at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Sears has been a model of consistency in scoring between 21 and 25 points in all eight games of the streak. He scored 23 points with four made 3-pointers in each of his previous two games, including Saturday’s 100-75 trouncing of visiting Texas A&M.

Yet with the first-place Crimson Tide (18-7, 10-2 SEC) thriving with 12 victories in their past 14 games, Sears is more pleased with the example he’s setting for the team.

“My leadership had to grow a lot for us to be in position to win now,” said Sears, who is in his second season with the program. “It’s something I am continuing to work on and get better. We have a great group of guys, everybody works hard, and I wouldn’t trade anything for this team.”

Sears is averaging an SEC-best 20.6 points and is making a bid for conference player of the year honors. He also leads the Crimson Tide with 60 3-pointers and 44 steals.

Alabama has racked up 100 or more points eight times this season, including in three of their last six games (plus a 99-point game in that span).

Against Texas A&M, Rylan Griffen (17 points) and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. (16) also performed well.

Wrightsell is averaging 18.5 points over the past two games hitting 10 of 17 from deep in those contests. That follows a stretch in which he averaged just 7.0 points over a three-game span.

Sears (third, 45.1 percent) and Wrightsell (fifth, 44.5) are both in the top five in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage. Sears never has to be told to shoot while Wrightsell said coach Nate Oats yells at him for not shooting more often.

“Any time he’s open, he should shoot the ball,” Oats explained. “He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached — why he would ever pass up an open shot is beyond me. I wish my college coach told me to shoot every time I was open.”

Florida (18-7, 8-4) also has been a hot squad with three straight victories and wins in seven of its last eight. The Gators are tied for fifth in the SEC.

Florida is fresh off an 88-82 road win over Georgia on Saturday. Walter Clayton Jr. scored 21 points for his third straight 20-point outing and fourth in five games. He leads the Gators at 16.4 points per game.

Freshman Thomas Haugh scored a season-best 17 points and Zyon Pullin had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists without committing a turnover in 38 minutes.

“He’s like the ultimate security blanket out there,” Gators coach Todd Golden said of Pullin, a transfer from UC Riverside who is averaging 15.5 points and a team-best 4.9 assists. “He’s going to be able to get us organized and get us into something. He does a good job finding guys. He does a good job of recognizing when things are available.

“So he’s out there seeing things and playing quarterback for us.”

Florida would like to atone for last season’s meeting, a 97-69 thrashing at the hands of the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. It was Alabama’s third straight win in the series.

–Field Level Media

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