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March 16, 2014
Instant Analysis: Gators win 2014 SEC Tournament
Add another notch on the belt of the 2013-2014 Florida Gators. For the first time since 2007, Florida is the Southeastern Conference Tournament champion. The No. 1 Gators (32-2) built a lead early and hung on late to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats (24-10) by a score of 61-60. Instant Analysis takes a look.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Kentucky couldn't get off a shot. Down by one poin with the game clock ticking away, James Young went to drive the lane. He slipped to the ground, the ball slipping away as Florida dived to secure it. The Gators have won 26 games in a row.
HE STOLE THE SHOW: From SEC Player of the Year to SEC Tournament MVP, Scottie Wilbekin took control of the Gators whenever they needed it in Atlanta. Honorable mention goes to Michael Frazier II (14 points) Sunday, who was the entirety of Florida's offense early in the game. But it was Wilbekin who directed Florida into good moments and out of bad moments, scoring 11 points and dishing six assists. He was a constant calming factor even when his shooting touch wasn't there in the second half.
THE STAT DOESN'T LIE: Patric Young is stronger and more physical than anyone Kentucky has in its frontcourt. That advantage was fully negated in the first half when Young picked up two fouls less than 10 minutes into the first half and watched from the bench until halftime. He surged back in the second half and kept the Gators on top of what became a competitive game. Young went 5 for 5 from the field with 11 points and three rebounds in the second half. His presence was the difference.
WHAT A PLAY: Kentucky used a 14-0 second-half run to creep within one of Florida in a game that seemed out of reach just minutes before. Ice in his veins in these kinds of moments all season, it was Frazier who hit his only 3-pointer of the second half to halt the Wildcats rush. Kentucky would never be able to take the lead.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In two previous victories against the Wildcats, the Gators zeroed in on UK star freshman Julius Randle and made the Harrison twins decide whether or not their team was going to prosper offensively. They went with a similar strategy Sunday despite the fact the Harrison twins came in on a roll in the NCAA Tournament. That roll continued (26 combined points), but it wasn't enough to overshadow Florida's shutdown of Randle. The SEC Freshman of the Year got off seven shots and made four of them. He had two turnovers and seven rebounds. This one ended up being closer, but the familiar formula still technically worked.
UP NEXT: Florida will almost certainly be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament field to be announced shortly.