Coming back from its second-largest halftime deficit of the season, the No. 1 Florida Gators (31-2) fought hard to take down the Tennessee Volunteers (21-12) in the second half and pull away for a 56-49 victory in the semifinals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.
Florida did not trail for the final nine minutes of the contest after facing a consistent deficit over the first 31 minutes of the game but eventually extended its winning streak to 25-straight games dating back to Dec. 2, 2013. UF outscored UT 28-14 in the second half, holding its opponent without a field goal for a 9:29 stretch.
OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: Leading by two with less than two minutes to play, Florida took off on a fastbreak created by a steal from sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Senior forward Casey Prather exploded to the hoop for a dunk but was grabbed around the waist with two hands by Antonio Barton, who was assessed a flagrant foul. Prather made both free throws (after missing two earlier) to give UF a 53-49 lead with 1:21 left. UT did not score again. Prather posted 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with a team-high five assists though he did commit four turnovers.
Prominent player: Senior center Patric Young put together a dynamite second half, scoring 12 points in the latter 20 minutes to finish with team-highs of 16 points and eight boards on the afternoon. Young also hit all four of his free throws, including two in the final seconds, to help the Gators put the game away.
Significant stretch: Florida opened the second half with a 10-2 scoring stretch, taking advantage of four Tennessee turnovers to erase its seven-point halftime deficit and retake the lead 38-37 with 14:49 to play. The Gators would give up their lead again as they went back-and-forth with the Vols, but the 10-2 run helped UF regain its confidence after a difficult first half.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
First half focus: Leading by two with about six minutes remaining until the break, Tennessee went on an 8-0 run to hand Florida its first double-digit deficit since Nov. 12, 2013 at Wisconsin. The Gators went 4:51 without a point and were eventually able to cut the Vols’ lead to single-digits in the final seconds of the opening period when Wilbekin hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to get UF within seven of UT. Wilbekin left with 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, forcing a team-high four steals in the process.
Perfect play: With nine minutes left in the game, Young saved a rebound by diving out of bounds. The ball quickly wound up in the hands of sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who drained his first and only three-pointer of the game to put Florida up 45-43 on Tennessee. Though the Vols tied the game four minutes later with two free throws, the Gators never fell behind for the duration of the contest. Frazier scored seven points, only attempting two shots from beyond the arc, but grabbed four boards and matched Wilbekin with four steals.
Standout stat: Both teams saw almost no scoring contribution from their respective bench with each only getting five points from its non-starters. There were also three total technical fouls in the game with UT’s Jeronne Maymon and UF redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith each fouling out of the contest.
What it means: Florida advances to the finals of the SEC Tournament for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons but has not won a tournament crown since 2007. The Gators also fought back from their second-largest halftime deficit of the season and won a game after trailing by double digits for the first time during the 2013-14 campaign. UF is now 4-0 in neutral-site games this season.
Next up: Florida will face the victor from the other semifinal – Kentucky vs. Georgia – on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. for the SEC Tournament Championship. UK and UGA square off Saturday afternoon. UF is 3-0 combined this season against the two teams. The Gators are 3-6 all-time in SEC Tournament finals, winning three-straight from 2005-07 but losing in 1934, 1989, 1994, 2004, 2011 and 2013.