Alabama recalls last title shot against Florida
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Anthony Grant can't escape the memories of the last time Alabama played Florida with a Southeastern Conference title on the line. The Crimson Tide coach was an assistant under the Gators' Billy Donovan when Antoine Pettway's buzzer-beating layup gave No. 5 Alabama a 65-64 win over No. 8 Florida on Feb. 23, 2002, and its first SEC championship in 15 years. They'll try to break a 9-year title drought Tuesday night at No. 14 Florida (22-6, 11-3), when the winner locks up at least a share of the SEC. For Alabama (19-9, 11-3), it would be hard to top the last time. Pettway's basket has become one of the most famous in 'Bama history, immortalized in painting by Birmingham sports artist Daniel Moore.A picture of the shot greets Grant each morning as he strolls into the office. "He says I go around putting the painting up at all the restaurants he goes to," Pettway, now Grant's director of basketball operations, said Monday. "We don't let him forget it." Grant uses the same phrase when asked about the game. "Pettway doesn't let me forget it," he said, smiling. A recap: Florida's James White missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 16 seconds left. Then Pettway laid it off the glass after a feed from a double-teamed Earnest Shelton. Since that memorable game 9 years ago, Alabama has only posted two winning marks in SEC games. Pettway said he won't bother talking about that one to the current players, some of whom were only 9 at the time. "They were too young. They don't remember it," he said. Not so, for Grant and senior forward Chris Hines. "I definitely remember that game," said Hines, who played on Pettway's AAU team. "It was a very high-impact game." Asked what he remembers, Grant said: "The missed free throw, obviously the layup to win the game and the excitement really. The celebration at the end of the game." He'll rekindle even more memories with his first time leading Alabama back into O'Connell Center, where he spent 10 seasons, the last five as Florida's associate head coach. "I'm sure there will be (emotions)," Grant said. "That's just natural. It's the first time going back in there, but the good thing about it is I don't have to play. It'll be our guys against coach's guys." The Gators won the first meeting between Grant and Donovan 66-65 last season at Coleman Coliseum, nearly a mirror image of the 2002 score. Only without the painting. Pettway and his mother and father each have copies of Moore's print titled "The Put Away", but his is stashed in a closet until his wife finds a spot for it. This situation does bring back memories. "It was the same kind of scenario," Pettway said. "You really just think about the opportunity these guys have and the hard work they've put in. That's most of what comes to my mind. It's just a chance to really be winners and be champions."
Top 5 at noon: What Hurricane Maria taught one reporter about the people of Puerto Rico; NCAA coaches among 10 charged with fraud and corruption; and more