It may be too early to go ahead and etch the entire F L O R I D A onto the SEC Championship trophy, but they might as well get started. After Saturday night’s win in Lexington the Florida Gators own a three-game lead with six games to play.
For Florida to not win at least a share of the league title Kentucky would have to win its final six games while the Gators lose four of six including the season finale’ in Gainesville.
That ain’t happening!
Florida’s command of the SEC race was solidified by one of those wins in which the Gators didn’t look great after the first twelve minutes. However it was one of those games only great teams win. The Gators had to play short handed virtually the entire night with foul trouble plaguing both Al Horford and Joakim Noah. The Gators seemingly couldn’t beat Kentucky to any of the loose balls, and surrendered a 13-1 run late in the first half. You have to wonder if Kentucky has EVER lost a home game in which the Wildcats had a 13-1 run. I kinda doubt it.
Florida got the win in front of the largest crowd in Rupp Arena history. Florida won despite two turnovers and a missed free throw in the final 18 seconds. The Gators won despite being out-rebounded by seven (40-33). The Gators won despite committing more turnovers (14-10).
Florida won despite Lee Humphrey making just one of six shots from behind the arc and scoring just three points on the night. Florida won despite neither Noah nor Horford scoring in double figures.
In short, Florida won despite doing just about everything wrong and seeing Kentucky get just about every break. That’s what great teams find a way to do. In that regard, it was one of the most significant wins of the year.
Three-Point Defense Decisive
Kentucky guard Ramel Bradley made a pair of three-point shots in the final 20 seconds, and missed another at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. Before that flurry, the Wildcats had made just one of 19 tries from behind the arc. Not only is that dreadful shooting and terrible shot selection; it also reflect some remarkable defense by the Gators. Florida has been superb defending the arc all season long and once again made it very difficult for the opponent to get clean, open looks.
Chris Richard was a big part of this win with eleven points and five rebounds with all of those points coming in the first 20 minutes of play. Corey Brewer made clutch shots down the stretch and led the team with 16 points and seven rebounds.
So the stretch run for the Gators now calls for six games with half of them at the O’Connell Center. Alabama comes in Wednesday before a road trip to Nashville to face a Vanderbilt team that will desperately need a win. Then it’s South Carolina in the O’Dome, LSU and Tennessee on the road before the rematch with the Wildcats. It’s hard to see the Gators losing more than two of those six games, and if you look at each individual contest, it’s hard to see the Gators losing any of them.
This team wins when it plays a good half. It wins when it suffers through foul difficulty. It wins on the road and it dominates at home. It is the best team in the nation.
Oh what the heck, go ahead and engrave the whole trophy. The SEC Championship race is over.