No. 1 Florida holds off Kentucky rally, claims SEC tournament title
ATLANTA -- The last time Florida won an SEC Tournament title, it went on to claim the national championship. That's the kind of history the Gators want to hear after getting past Kentucky in the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
Kentucky couldn't get a potential game-winning shot off on its final possession and Florida held on, 61-60, to claim the SEC Tournament title for the first time since 2007. The Gators, winners of 26 straight games overall, also claimed the NCAA's overall No. 1 seed.
Kentucky made Florida earn it, staging a furious rally from 15 points down in the second half. The Wildcats climbed to within one with less than a minute to play, but Andrew Harrison missed a jumper to take the lead. The 'Cats then sent Florida to the free throw line where the Gators missed the front-end of a one-and-one opportunity from Scottie Wilbekin. Dorian Finney-Smith rebounded the miss to give Florida another shot to ice the game at the line. But Finney-Smith somehow clanked his attempt off the rim, as well, and Kentucky rebounded with a final chance to steal a game the Gators had largely dominated.
With the clock ticking down, James Young took a pass and drove the lane looking for a shot. But Young slipped and coughed up the ball, and the buzzer sounded as he and Wilbekin dove for the recovery. Florida escaped Atlanta with a title in hand.
For all the challenges that Kentucky has faced this year -- the preseason No. 1 Wildcats lost 10 games, five of which came over the last month -- coach John Calipari's squad righted the ship in time to challenge the country's No. 1 team for the conference title. This Kentucky roster will be a dangerous 8-seed, especially if an intriguing matchup with 1-seed Wichita State comes to fruition in the Round of 32.. Florida, meanwhile, has all the makings of a national championship contender. The Gators didn't lose to an SEC team this year, finishing 19-0 in the regular season and the SEC tournament. Wilbekin has Florida's offense running on all cylinders, but this team gets things done on defense, as well, as displayed in Sunday's final moments. There might not be a more complete team heading into tournament time.