The Florida Gators (26-6) advanced to the final of the SEC basketball tournament today by beating the Alabama Crimson Tide (21-12), 61-51.
If the game was at home, you would have heard 12,000 people groaning their way through the first half. At the break, the Gators were 1-for-8 from three-point range, a slim deficit against a desperate team and a game that seemed to have a “here we go again” feel to it.
Florida’s chances of winning looked cloudy at best considering their all too familiar track record this season in close games. Their 28-25 deficit at the beginning of the second half soon ballooned to 10, the three ball still wasn’t going in, and Alabama was shooting over 60% from the field, all the ingredients of an upset. Then Kenny Boynton got hot, really hot.
Held scoreless in the first half, the senior went on an absolute tear bringing Florida out of the dregs of ineptitude scoring 16 of the Gators next 20 points. An Alabama lead that was eight before Boynton stepped to the free throw line with 14:56 remaining in the game vanished thanks to number one’s sweet stroke. When Kenny was done at the 8:11 mark, the Tide suddenly found itself down eight. They would only get as close as five the rest of the way.
In that stretch of 6:45, Boynton became the games leading scorer, lifting the Gators to their largest come from behind victory of the season. It was something I’d been looking for from this Florida team, someone to take over the game when no one else seemed able to.
The Gators needed this adversity, they needed to come from behind, and they needed someone to take the reins. Now they stand on the doorstep of a 4th SEC tournament title and only Ole Miss stands in their way.