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SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin and the Gators face Kentucky today in the SEC Tournament championship.

Sunday March 16, 2014Gators Notebook: Donovan Delivers Winning Answer, Gators-Cats III, More Tidbits

SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin and the Gators face Kentucky today in the SEC Tournament championship.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

--GatorZone.com Senior Writer Chris Harry contributed to this report.

ATLANTA -- The No. 1-ranked Gators have an opportunity this afternoon to place a final stamp on their historic run through the Southeastern Conference.

Florida faces Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship game (3:15 p.m., ESPN), and with a victory, the Gators can add a conference tournament crown to the regular-season title they earned by going a perfect 18-0 in conference play.

The Gators won their 25th consecutive game with a 56-49 victory over Tennessee in Saturday's semifinals, setting up today's showdown against the Wildcats.

Billy Donovan

However, during his postgame media session, Florida coach Billy Donovan was asked if he would have preferred the Gators lost Saturday so they could rest today at home and wait to learn of their NCAA Tournament destination on Sunday.

Oh, if only Billy D wasn't such a class act he could have had a 'SportsCenter' highlight for eternity. Can you imagine if, say, Bobby Knight or Mike Ditka got asked if they would have rather lost than won so their team could get an extra day of rest?

Donovan kept it civil.

"I'm not quite sure how to answer that,'' Donovan chuckled. "That really never crossed my mind. When you’re in there competing, you’re trying to win. I do think that these different experiences are good. I thought our struggle was we did not get great productivity off of our bench and we had to sub.

"When we sub, that’s when I thought Tennessee went on a run. I’m happy for our guys. But I thought the game really could have gone either way. But it didn't cross my mind to sit there and say, you know, 'Boy, I hope we lose and go home.' "

In the end, a smart answer to a strange question.

35 YEARS IN THE MAKING?

The Gators manhandled Kentucky last weekend 84-65 in the regular-season finale. Three weeks earlier they defeated the Wildcats 69-59 at Lexington. Those two games made for a rare Florida regular-season sweep over the SEC’s blue blood.

But a third win in Sunday's SEC Tournament finale would be one for the archives.

In fact, no team has defeated the Cats -- reigning national champions that year -- three times in a single season since Tennessee, under Don DeVoe (yes, the future UF coach), did it in the 1978-79 season.

That Volunteers team, led by Reggie Johnson, won at Rupp Arena 66-55 in January, held serve at home 101-74 in February, then “three-swept” Kyle Macy and the Cats with a 75-69 overtime win in the SEC Tournament championship game in Birmingham, Ala.

CHARTING THE GATORS

Florida’s 56-49 defeat of Tennessee marked the eighth time the Gators were either tied or trailed at halftime against an SEC opponent this season -- and won. In fact, UF had another two games that it led by just one and two, respectively. The Gators won both of those, too. 

Opponent                              Halftime                   Final 
@Auburn                                  33-32                     W 68-61
@Mississippi State                 27-26                     W 62-51
Missouri                                    25-28                     W 68-58
Alabama                                   36-36                     W 78-69
@Tennessee                           33-34                     W 67-58
@Kentucky                               28-31                     W 69-59
Auburn                                      30-38                     W 71-66
@Ole Miss                                42-42                     W 75-71
@South Carolina                    29-29                     W 72-46
*Missouri                                  29-29                      W 72-49
*Tennessee                             28-35                      W 56-49 

*SEC Tournament

 

NOT THOSE GUYS

Kentucky coach John Calipari was in light mood following Saturday night's win over Georgia.

Calipari

The Wildcats improved to 24-9 and are back in the SEC Tournament title game for the first time in two years. While fans and media clamored for a Florida-Kentucky rematch, Calipari did not.

“I've had enough of Florida,” Calipari said jokingly. “For four years I've seen the same guys. Some of them I think five years. I think they got a special program down there where they keep guys for six years. 

“But what a great team. What a great story. What a great coaching job. You're talking about a team that it's almost an honor to play a team like that. My players can all say what they want. I'm not looking forward to playing Florida again.” 

IN THE CLUTCH

The way they started at the free-throw line Saturday was much different than how the Gators finished. Florida made only one of its first seven attempts at the charity stripe.

However, in the final 4:49 and with the game on the line, the Gators sank 9 of 10, including a 4-for-4 performance from Patric Young.

"We've worked on that all year,'' said guard Michael Frazier II. "It doesn't surprise me we were able to knock down some key free throws during the game."

Free throws could impact today's game against Kentucky. The Wildcats, in their 70-58 win against Georgia, shot a season-low 50 percent (9 of 18) from the line.

CONTACT MADE

In Saturday's win over the Vols, the game was stopped for a couple of minutes as officials reviewed TV replays of an apparent phantom elbow from Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin to Antonio Barton's face.

A foul was called as soon as Barton went to the floor in an Oscar-worthy performance. Officials checked replays to see if a flagrant should be imposed, which wasn't.

"As soon as I caught the ball, they were yelling 'down,' so I knew they wanted to keep me on the side,'' Wilbekin said. "I was just trying to rip the ball through and get into the middle of the floor and my elbow nicked his chin -- I think. He did a good job of selling it."

QUOTE OF NOTE

"We just try to stay in the moment so you don't really feel that pressure. The moment isn't your record. The record is your past. All those things you won are in the past. If you stay in the moment, you don't feel any of that pressure because you are just focused on each and every possession." -- Frazier on not getting caught up in the Gators' 25-game win streak

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"Our number one key is not to panic, just readjust, change our focus. We have been in situations like this before.'' -- Young on overcoming Saturday's 10-point deficit against Tennessee, Florida's largest hole since November at Wisconsin

BONUS SHOTS

This is the Gators' 10th appearance in the SEC Tournament championship. Florida is 3-6 all-time, 3-3 under Donovan ... Kentucky is making its 38th appearance in the championship ... The Gators are 3-12 all-time against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, including 1-3 under Donovan ... Wildcats forward Julius Randle had 12 points and 11 rebounds in Saturday's win over Georgia, his sixth consecutive double-double ... The Gators held both Missouri and Tennessee to 49 points, marking the first time since 1985 a team has held its first two opponents in the SEC Tournament to under 50 points ... Wilbekin is 8-for-13 from 3-point range (61.5 percent) in Florida's two wins.

 

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