Florida Defeats Alabama 61-51 in SEC Semis

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Nashville, TN - Kenny Boynton scored 11 straight points during a 15-0 second-half run and No. 13 Florida overcame a 10-point, second-half deficit to beat Alabama 61-51 on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals.

The top-seeded Gators (26-6) advanced the Sunday championship game against Mississippi or Vanderbilt. Alabama (21-12), the tournament's No. 4 seed, will spend Sunday waiting to learn its fate from the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Most mock brackets had Alabama on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble at the start of the week. Even after beating Tennessee 64-62 on Friday in a battle of bubble teams, Alabama said it still had more work to do and was trying to take its fate out of the selection committee's hands by earning the SEC's automatic bid.

Alabama went 12-6 in conference play during the regular season, but the Tide hurt its cause by going 1-5 in December, including home nonconference losses to Mercer and Tulane.

Held scoreless for the first 25 minutes, Boynton finished with a game-high 16 points. Patric Young had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Gators. Mike Rosario added 10 points.

Trevor Releford scored 12 points, and Nick Jacobs and Trevor Lacey each added 11 for Alabama.

Alabama led 37-27 with 16:05 remaining before Florida reeled off 15 straight points over the next 5 minutes. In the lone regular-season meeting between the two teams, Florida rallied from eight points down in the final 12 1/2 minutes to win 64-52 on March 2 in Gainesville.

This game featured the SEC's two best scoring defenses, with Florida (53.4) and Alabama (58.9) allowing fewer than 60 points per game. And it started out as a defensive struggle, with Florida leading 6-2 7 minutes into the game.

But after missing four of its first five shots and committing four turnovers in the first 5 1/2 minutes, Alabama's offense found a rhythm. The Crimson Tide shot 55 percent (11 of 20) in the first half against a Florida team that hadn't allowed anyone to shoot 50 percent or better this season.

Alabama was ahead 28-25 after a first half that featured five ties and seven lead changes, with neither team ever in front by more than five points. The Tide's hot shooting enabled them to lead even though they had seven turnovers and only one assist before halftime.

The Tide stayed hot early in the second half and extended itsr lead to 37-27 when Releford sank two free throws with 16:05 remaining.

That's when Boynton took over the game.

First the senior guard made a pair of free throws to cut Alabama's lead to 37-31. Next he made a driving basket. Then Boynton sank a 3-pointer. He followed that up with a fast-break layup that gave Florida the lead. Boynton closed this stunning flurry by going into the paint and making a shot off the glass that extended Florida's advantage to 40-37 with 12:02 remaining.

Florida stayed in front the rest of the way.


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