Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - Seeking their first conference title since
2007, the top-seeded Florida Gators will take on the upset-minded Ole Miss
Rebels to decide the Southeastern Conference Tournament champion at
Brigdestone Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Ole Miss enters this contest with its NCAA Tournament hopes still alive after
posting wins against Missouri (64-62) and Vanderbilt (64-52) in the first two
rounds of the tournament. The Rebels have won six of their last seven games to
improve to 25-8 overall, which has them in the running for one of the final
at-large bids for the Big Dance. Ole Miss has not claimed an SEC title since
1981, and has not been in the tourney title tilt since 2001.
The Gators are making their second appearance in the championship game in the
last three years. To get here they posted two rather convincing wins over LSU
(80-58) and Alabama (61-51). Florida is a lock to be in the field for the NCAA
Tournament, but is hoping earn its first SEC Tournament crown since winning
three straight between 2004-07. UF is 25-6 overall and had a 14-4 mark against
conference foes during the regular season when it reached as high as No. 2 in
the national rankings.
During the regular season these teams met just once with Florida routing Ole
Miss, 78-64, at the O'Connell Center in Gainesville. The Gators have now won
five straight in the series which they lead by a 61-42 margin.
Marshall Henderson scored a game-high 23 points to lead Ole Miss to its win
over Vanderbilt in the semifinals. The Rebels trailed for most of the first
half, but battled to tie the game at 26-26 heading into the break. After
halftime, the Rebels connected on 48.1 percent of their field goal attempts to
pull away for the 12-point victory.
Paced by Henderson (20 ppg), the Rebels have been the top scoring team in the
SEC this year as they average 78.2 ppg while connecting on 43.7 percent of
their total shots. Henderson hasn't been a particularly efficient scorer for
the Rebels, connecting on just 38.3 percent from the field, but he has shown
an ability to hit shots from just about everywhere on the floor. Murphy
Holloway (14.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg) is a solid contributor on the interior as he is
the leading rebounder for the Rebels, who rank second in the SEC on the
boards. Like Holloway, Reginald Buckner (9.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.7 bpg) is a force
in the paint with his ability to score, rebound and block shots.
Florida was facing a 10-point deficit early in the second half of its
semifinal-round clash with Alabama. However, the Gators turned that 37-27
deficit into a five-point lead by ripping off a 15-0 run midway through the
period. The Gators would never trail again as they hit 48 percent from the
field and 10-of-13 from the free-throw line over the final 20 minutes.
The Gators (71.9 ppg) may not be as potent a scoring team as Ole Miss, but
they have been a team that can score at will thanks to their impressive
efficiency at the offensive end. Florida leads the SEC in assists (15 apg) and
field goal percentage (.484). Billy Donovan's squad is also air-tight on
defense, ranking in the top-three nationally in scoring yield (53.3 ppg) and
opponent field goal percentage (.374). Kenny Boynton (12.3 ppg, 3.0 apg) had
struggled to muster just 11 points in the previous two games, but bounced back
with a 16-point effort against Alabama. Mike Rosario (12.1 ppg), Erik Murphy
(12.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Patric Young (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) are also solid
scorers for the Gators, while Scottie Wilbekin (9.1 ppg, 5.0 apg) has made big
contributions as a facilitator.
The Sports Network