Florida 61, Kentucky 60
March 16, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
FLORIDA SPORTS RELEASE
FLORIDA 61, KENTUCKY 60
WHAT HAPPENED: The Gators, up 15 midway through the second-half, survived a furious rally by the Wildcats and escaped the Georgia Dome with a pulsating one-point victory to capture the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship. Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, voted tournament MVP, scored 11 points, dished six assists and led his team to a 26th straight victory. Senior center Patric Young, saddled with first-half foul trouble, had 14 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots, while guard Michael Frazier II was great again from the 3-point line, hitting four of six, the last a mega-make after the Wildcats had cut the lead to one and the UK faithful were in a tizzy.
WHAT IT MEANS: Obviously, the Gators have set their goals high for the rest of the postseason, but they just put a Big Blue exclamation on the greatest, most dominant wire-to-wire season in SEC history. Florida is the first team ever to go unbeaten in an 18-game regular season and win the league tourney title -- 21-0. Fittingly, they never trailed in this game (just like they never trailed the conference standings).
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: What about Wilbekin? All he did was sweep the SEC Player of the Year and SEC Tournament MVP awards in the last five days. He was defending UK guard James Young in the final second as Young tried to get into the lane and launch a potential game-winner. Young had nothing, then slipped and tried to throw the ball to a teammate. Instead, the ball came loose and rolled across the floor as time expired.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: Gators went 7-for-17 from the free throw line, with both Wilbekin (74.4 percent) and Dorian Finney-Smith (62.6) missing front ends of one-and-ones inside 23 seconds. Could have been the game, right there. Florida was lucky on that front.
SUBPLOT: Kentucky fashions itself as the basketball thoroughbred of the SEC -- and the Wildcats have the championships over the last 70 or so years to prove it. But they don’t have a 21-0 season nor three of the last four conference titles. Florida does. Plus, the 2014 Gators became the first team since Tennessee in 1979 to beat Kentucky three times in a season.
UP NEXT: The Gators (32-2) will be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and on the top line in the South Region when the bracket is announced. They’ll have to wait 30 minutes or so -- and they’ll cut some nets down to bid the time -- to learn who they’ll face in Thursday’s second-round action at the Amway Center in in Orlando.