20 Glorious Minutes For SEC Title

Tuesday night, Florida and Alabama went to the locker room tied at 30, each 20 minutes away from an SEC Championship. For the Gators it was a classic good news/bad news situation. Or if you prefer it, Florida fans were staring at a "glass half full/glass half empty" situation.

The good news was that Florida was tied despite missing its first 10 three-point shots, and clanging 17 of the first 22 shots they took. The Gators were also an embarrassing 6-for-12 at the free throw line yet they were tied. The bad news was that Alabama had turned it over 11 times and had not made a three-point shot and yet despite those gifts, the Gators did not have the lead.

How would the team respond? Would it remain tight and hyper and continue to miss or would they get it together? Well five minutes into the second half the Gators went on their best run in four years.

Leading 39-38 the Gators went on a remarkable 28-6 run over the next 10 minutes to claim their fifth SEC Title in school history. It started with a Boynton three, followed by a Patric Young dunk. Chandler Parsons hit a long range shot and then added two free throws to make it 49-38. Alabama never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.

Florida ended up outscoring Alabama 48-21 in the second half. That's 48 second half points against a team that was allowing just 60 a game heading into the O'Dome. Florida shot 69 percent from the field, 67 percent from three-point range and even made 6-of-8 free throws.

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It could be argued that this was the greatest Senior Day in Gator basketball history. The ideal Senior Day has ceremony, a significant win and solid performances by players in their last game. This had all of that and more.

The Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC Championship, earning the first rings for any member of this team. For a group that came in on the heels of back-to-back NCAA Championships it was the culmination of a long climb back from being tossed out of the practice facility as freshmen.

The three seniors that actually play all came through with memorable final performances at home. Parsons (19/11), Vernon Macklin (19/6) and Alex Tyus (12/9) combined for 50 points and 26 rebounds and totally dominated an Alabama front line that led the SEC in "points in the paint" differential.

Even Adam Allen who has been sidelined for most of his career with a chronic knee problem got into the act and was allowed to dribble out the game while 12,000-plus chanted S-E-C, S-E-C!

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Two Gators strengthened their cases for SEC individual honors at the conclusion of this season. Parsons produced his seventh double-double of the season and has to be viewed as a prime candidate for SEC Player of the Year. The best player on the best team is a guy who coaches will appreciate more than media types. In 14 SEC games, Parsons is averaging 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He's making almost half his shots in conference play and has a better than 2:1 assist/turnover ratio.

Billy Donovan has never won the SEC Coach of the Year honor and odds are he won't again, but he should. Since dropping a humiliating game with Jacksonville in the O'Dome, Donovan has guided his team to 15 wins in 18 outings. Despite playing in the far more difficult Eastern Division, his Gators have won the SEC and are currently three games ahead of everyone else in the SEC East. That's even more remarkable when you consider the fact that five of the six teams in the division have RPI rankings in the top 40.

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Now it's off to Nashville where the Gators will try and become just the second Florida team since the 1940s to finish with just three SEC losses. A win over Vanderbilt would also guarantee that Florida does not have to share the SEC Title with Alabama (should the Crimson Tide beat Georgia) but does it really matter? This team has proven that it's the best in the SEC, which is something only four other Florida teams have ever done.

They also probably wrapped up a top four seed and the opportunity to play in Tampa for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. All thanks in large part to the best 20 minutes Florida has played in at least four years.


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