Gators drop SEC Tournament final

Florida cruised through the first half. The Gators took a double-digit lead just seven minutes into the game and pushed the lead to 12 points at halftime. That's when the struggles came. Ole Miss outscored Florida 40-25 in the second half as Murphy Holloway and Marshall Henderson led a comeback to give the Rebels a 66-63 win in the Southeastern Conference tournament title game.

"We didn't guard at all," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said about the second half. "When you give up 54% in the second half that erases any kind of lead you have pretty quickly when we ended up shooting 29% in the second half."

Ole Miss was successful doing whatever it wanted on the offensive end in the second half. Donovan said at halftime he was concerned about Murphy Holloway getting open when Marshall Henderson consumed the Florida defense, and Holloway did plenty of damage. The senior forward scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds.

Henderson did his normal damage, too. He had 21 points and led his team with the normal passion and enthusiasm he brings to the court.

"Murphy Holloway was a guy we wanted to shut down, but he was a big factor in the win," Kenny Boynton said. "We didn't shut him down much. We take pride in our defense, but it wasn't our best defensive game."

The Gators had plenty of chances despite their lackadaisical defense in the second half. Down two points with 22 seconds left, Florida called timeout and drew up a play to get the ball to Erik Murphy in the paint. He missed hook shot in the paint, and Holloway hit one of two free throws on the other end, keeping Florida in the game.

Ole Miss fouled Scottie Wilbekin, who missed both free throws and earned a last-second heave for Boynton to tie the game that rimmed out, giving the Rebels a 66-63 win.

While the defense struggled in the second half, the offense wasn't much better.

"We got stagnant," Boynton said. "We dribbled around way too much. The ball wasn't moving. We didn't take advantage of what they tried to do to us. When we did, we got pretty good looks. Erik (Murphy) and Scottie Wilbekin had a very tough night offensively."

The loss sparked more questions about Florida's late-game play. The Gators didn't get great shots late in the game and missed some of the open looks they did have. However, Donovan was clear that he didn't think it's an issue for his team.

"It has nothing to do with that. We're up 12 points at the half, and you have to look at the execution part. To me, we executed. The ball didn't go in the basket. That's part of the game. There's nothing I can do as a coach.

"Did Erik Murphy look scared to shoot the ball tonight? He went up strong. All of our guys did. I don't sense our guys being scared. People try to create this drama about our guys losing confidence, but our guys have not lost confidence at all. They dug themselves a hole with our lack of defense. People try to create drama around a situation that's not necessarily true. The truth of the matter is we were up 12 and allowed Ole Miss to shoot 53% while we shot 29%."

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