Gators Win Third Outright SEC Title

The Gators knew before taking the court that it would take a win to secure the outright SEC Championship. After Alabama beat Georgia to put the pressure on Florida, the No. 14 Gators responded with one of their best performances this season. Florida was slow out of the gates, but it was another outstanding second half performance that yielded an easy 86-76 victory over Vanderbilt.

"I'm really proud of our guys because it was a game where we could've had a letdown since we had a share of the championship," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his post game radio show. "Our guys showed some maturity. There was still a lot left out there for our team. I couldn't be any more pleased with our guys. We played with really good energy tonight."

The Commodores took a 25-18 lead with 6:47 left in the first half when Brad Tinsley dunked over Chandler Parsons. Instead of fueling the Vanderbilt sideline with energy, it looked like it woke the Gators up.

After Tinsley's dunk, the Gators closed the first half on a 20-5 run. Kenny Boynton had eight of those points, including two three-pointers, while Parsons and Vernon Macklin chipped in with five each during that run.

"We went on a run and then closed out the half very well," Donovan said.

The team has struggled with allowing teams to get back in the game during the second half, but that wasn't the case late in the game. Vanderbilt cut the lead to a one-point lead with 10:46 left on a jumper from Rod Odom, but the Gators went on another run, this time 11-1 to push the lead back to 65-54.

"We knew they were going to make a run, and they did make their run, but we answered," Donovan said. "Our shots were really timely."

Boynton was the go-to player when the Gators needed a basket.

The sophomore finished with 17 points, including four three-pointers. Boynton also had the seventh four-point play of his career, hitting a three-pointer and getting fouled. Boynton has converted all seven four-point play opportunities of his career.

Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins matched up with Boynton for most of the game, and while he is an electric scorer, the Gators wanted to make sure he wasted plenty of energy on the defensive end, too.

"Kenny Boynton made some big threes in crucial situations," Donovan said. "We were able to put Kenny in some situations to come off some screens. We just wanted to make Jenkins work as much as we could."

Defending Jenkins is a whole other issue, but this time, the Gators did it well. The sophomore had 22 points, only four fewer than he got during the teams' matchup in Gainesville, but these points were different. Not many came on open shots, and he didn't have as big of an effect on the game Saturday night.

"John Jenkins is a great player and a great shooter," Boynton said. "He runs off picks on like every play. You just have to stay connected to him."

Alex Tyus had 13 points and ten rebounds, with seven of those coming on the offensive glass. He kept multiple plays alive and helped the Gators to a 15-2 advance in second chance points.

"He played well and we needed it," Donovan said. "He rebounded the ball well and got to the offensive glass."

The win moved Florida's record to 8-2 on the road and 10-3 in games outside of Gainesville. The Gators were 8-9 last year in games played outside of Gainesville.

It's the first time a Florida team won eight true road games since the 1994 team that played in the Final Four.

The win also gave Florida a 13-3 conference record, tying the 2007 team for the best in school history.

It was also a big day for Donovan. It was his 500th game as the Florida head coach, and the win was his 355th. That produces a .710 winning percentage, which is second best in SEC history for any coach through 500 games.

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