And they did it by fending off a 15-1 Kentucky run to outscore the Wildcats 30-9 over the final eleven minutes.
That folks, is big.
Three Freshman Were Superb
We all know the Florida team is keyed by the veteran trio of Lee, Roberson and Walsh and the Gators count on at least two of them playing well every night. Walsh was superb Sunday, scoring 26 points on his way to tournament MVP honors. David Lee chips in with 17 rebounds to break the SEC Tournament-record. Roberson wasn't great, but did manage some big baskets along the way.
But to me, the really great story was Florida's top three rookies.
Corey Brewer capped a super weekend with another outstanding performance all over the floor. "Spiderman" had eight points, five rebounds and two steals and added outstanding defense. His three-day tournament totals of 35 points and 19 rebounds mark a coming of age for the young star-in-the-making.
Al Horford has struggled down the stretch failing to score more than six points in ten straight games and topping six rebounds just twice. Well "Big Al" was a force from midway through the national anthem on his way to a seven point, nine rebound performance. Not spectacular numbers, but more than he had in the first two Kentucky games COMBINED.
Taurean Green scored two points on a couple of free throws, but the first year point guard gave Anthony Roberson crucial rest during 17 quality minutes. In fact the two were in the floor together quite a bit. Green committed just one turnover and had four assists and played some very good perimeter defense.
You gotta like what those three showed in the biggest game of their young careers. It helps make Florida a team most would like to avoid this weekend.
Donovan's Greatest Coaching Job
There can be little debate this year represents the finest coaching job in a remarkable nine-year run for Billy Donovan in Gainesville. Few teams post 23 wins or win a conference tournament with two freshmen in the starting lineup and a rookie backup point guard. Donovan has brought these kids along beautifully and the veterans have done more than their share to make it work. Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard could easily pout about the loss of minutes to the new kids on the block, but instead they have done everything possible to find their niche and fill their role. Adrian Moss has returned from back trouble to be a productive player off the bench. That's not easy for a fourth-year junior who was starting when healthy.
Florida heads into the "Big Dance" with a seven-game winning streak having taken nine of the last ten. Six of those nine wins have come away from home and five against teams in the RPI top 40 at game time.
As I write this it's an hour before bids come out…. More to come once the match ups are set… but here's hoping the Gators get Thursday off!
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