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March 16, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida trailed by double-digits early in the second half, but a furious scoring streak by Kenny Boynton brought the Gators back, and they eventually coasted to a 61-51 victory over Alabama in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon. The Gators await the winner of the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game in Sunday's championship game.
Here's the key news and notes from UF's semifinal triumph.
Boynton's explosion leads Gators to victoryFor the game's first 25:04, Boynton didn't have a point, which may have been part of the reason that UF trailed by 10 early in the second half. UF's guard was 0-for-3 from the field in the first half, but once the senior got going, he proved just about impossible for Alabama to stop.
At the 14:56 mark, Boynton hit a pair of free throws. On UF's next possession, he drove the right side for a fast-break layup. Next time down, it was a 3 from the left side, and then another fast-break layup.
Suddenly, Boynton had nine points in less than two minutes, and the Gators led by one.
Boynton wasn't done, banking in a short shot for the game's next points. A field goal followed a few minutes later, and then another 3.
Coach Billy Donovan spoke to Boynton's slow start, and said that unlike earlier points in his career, he wasn't upset with his senior's shot selection.
In fact, Donovan used a halftime speech directed towards Boynton that may have helped get him going.
"I think I went after him pretty good at halftime," Donovan said. "The reason I went after him is, I have seen him really over his career do some remarkable things. I've seen him when he's been in slumps. I've seen his fight, and I thought to start the game, he missed a couple of really good looks. He missed a drive to the basket and he missed two open 3s. And he was one of the guys that got deflated."
"I just told him, 'You're a senior, it's time to fight,'" Donovan added later. "You've always fought, and I've got great confidence in you. It's time to fight right now. You've got to fight what you're going through, and right now, I don't see that fight on your face. And he had that look, he got that look back where his motor's running and he's going."
By the time the day was over, Boynton had a game-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field.
Earlier, Donovan spoke of the respect that Boynton had among the staff and the team.
"You know, I've been on teams where a guy gets on a run, he's not a great teammate and guys don't really care that he went on a run. He's not about the right things, or he's selfish or into himself. ... But I would say that maybe of anybody on our team, Kenny Boynton is truly loved inside of our team because he's a great teammate."
Donovan's speechDonovan's talk helped motivate more than Boynton, according to UF guard Mike Rosario, who was asked what Donovan said at the break.
"Just know that we're playing for something and we don't want to leave today, you know, loss or win, knowing that we didn't leave everything on the floor. That was the message that he basically gave us as a team," Rosario said.
"He knew how great we... we weren't showing that perseverance and that relentless effort that we always give him. I just feel like the whole team just took on that message in a positive way."
Defense dictates a snail's paceAccording to Ken Pomeroy's tempo ratings, this figured to be a slow-paced game; Alabama ranked 313th in tempo coming in, and Florida, 294. Given the way both teams defend, it figured to be a low-scoring game.
It was everything it figured to be; 'Bama often didn't make a serious attempt to get a shot until late in the clock, and twice, the Gators forced a shot-clock violation in the first half. UF nearly forced another in the second half as well, forcing a contested Alabama shot (which missed) from about 22 feet out just before the buzzer sounded.
How slow did the tempo get in the first half? Alabama took just 20 shots in the period, but led by a 28-25 score since it it 11 of them. The Gators got seven more first-half shots, also hitting 11, but went just 1-of-8 from 3.
However, Donovan noted that the Gators weren't necessarily getting bad looks in the first half. By his estimation, UF missed nine lay-ups before the break.
The opposing viewAlabama coach Anthony Grant offered this assessment of the Gators afterwards.
"You know, I think they've been one of the best defensive teams in the country all year. They've very good in their pressure, they've got good length and quickness. Some things they did schematically that we knew they were going to do, we made poor decisions with. (In) some things, they're very good," Grant said.