Despite holding a 12-point lead over Ole Miss at halftime, No. 13 Florida fell to the Rebels 66-63 in the SEC Tournament final.
The Gators (26-7) missed their chance to capture their first tournament crown since 2007. For the Rebels (26-8), the win gives them their tourney title since 1981, along with an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
Ole Miss’ polarizing guard Marshall Henderson taunted Florida with a big Gator chomp after nailing a three to put the Rebels ahead 59-53 with 7:16 left.
Florida had its chances down the stretch, but the Gators faded on both ends of the floor, specifically on offense. UF hoisted 31 three-point attempts during the game, making 11.
Down 65-63 with 29 seconds left, Casey Prather came up with a steal on an Ole Miss inbounds play. Billy Donovan quickly called a timeout to draw up a play for Florida.
The Gators elected to go inside to a posted up Erik Murphy. Murphy’s shot clanked of the rim into the hands of Ole Miss’ Murphy Holloway, who was instantly fouled.
Holloway, who had been enjoying a sensational game for the Rebels, had yet to take a free throw attempt when he stepped to the line. Holloway made the first shot to push the Rebels’ lead to three before Ole Miss called a timeout to talk strategy.
Holloway missed the second free throw attempt, but the Rebels’ had a plan. As soon as Scottie Wilbekin took off up court with a chance to tie the game on a three, Ole Miss’ Nick Williams fouled Wilbekin, sending him to the free throw line.
With just four seconds left, the Gators had limited options. Wilbekin would need to make the first free throw before missing the second on purpose, and hoping for a UF rebound and basket.
Wilbekin’s first attempt missed. The second attempt however, bounced around long enough for the Gators to tip the ball out to a waiting Kenny Boynton at the three-point line.
Boynton managed to put up a decent shot attempt, but the ball rolled around the basket before falling into Reginald Buckner’s hands to end the game and the Gators’ hopes at another SEC tournament title.
Mike Rosario led UF in points and rebounds, finishing with 18 and nine respectively. Henderson finished with 21 for the Rebels, while Holloway led the team with 23.
The Gators are 0-6 in games decided by single points.