Take a few moments to let your heart rate settle. It was probably high.
The 1-seed Florida Gators defeated the 4-seed Tennessee Volunteers in a 56-49 shoot-out in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals at the Georgia Dome. With the win, Florida (31-2, 18-0 SEC) moves on to the tournament final and will play either 2-seed Kentucky or 3-seed Georgia.
The Gators were down by as many as 10 points in the first half and faced a 35-28 deficit heading into halftime after Scottie Wilbekin hit a 3-pointer in the half’s waning seconds.
But Florida came charging back in the second half, allowing Tennessee (21-12, 11-7 SEC) to score only 14 points. The Volunteers’ final output of 49 points was their second-lowest total of the season (their lowest of 41 points also came at the hands of the Gators). Florida caused 11 Tennessee turnovers in that half as well.
Basically, the Gator defense won this game, and the offense struggled. Florida’s 56 points was its lowest of the season, due to only four offensive rebounds, a poor free throw performance with 10 of 17 made and 13 turnovers. Michael Frazier II had only one 3-pointer, and Wilbekin scored a grand total of one point in the second half off a free throw.
No matter. What was encouraging about this game offensively for Florida is that it faced its second double-digit deficit of the season since the loss to Wisconsin in the second game of the season, but this time, the Gators battled back and came out victorious.
The Gators are now 20-0 against conference opponents and extended their overall winning streak to 25 games in a row.
Patric Young led Florida with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Wilbekin added 14 points. Tennessee’s Jordan McRae led the Volunteers with 15 points.
Florida will next face the winner of Kentucky/Georgia in the SEC Tournament finals. Tip-off is set for 3:15 p.m. Sunday in Atlanta.
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