Rushed Reactions: Florida 61, Alabama 51Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013
David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the SEC Tournament semifinal game between Florida and Alabama in Nashville.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Florida Run. The Gators trailed by 10 early in the second half before going on a 13-0 run to completely change the momentum of the game. Florida looked lethargic at that point, and it appeared they may be heading home a day earlier than most expected. However, led by senior point guard Kenny Boynton, the Gators made their run in less than three minutes, and Alabama never got closer than three the rest of the way. Florida outscored the Crimson Tide 34-14 after trailing by 10. “Boynton stepped up to the plate. He gave them that spark and they kept building on that,” Alabama guard Trevor Releford said after the game. The run the Gators made was similar to the one they made two weeks ago in Gainesville, where they also trailed by 10 to the Tide in the second half. And that was certainly on Alabama players’ minds. Guard Trevor Lacey admitted that he discussed it with his teammates. “We knew we needed to keep attacking them,” he said. The Gators clearly were not deterred when they fell behind, and showed again why they won the league’s regular season title.
- Good Kenny Boynton. There is no shortage of enigmatic point guards in the SEC, and Boynton may be the leader of that club. The senior often takes shots out of the offensive flow, and has hit only 32.5% of his three-point attempts on the year. As the Gators practiced this week, coach Billy Donovan advised Boynton and fellow senior Mike Rosario to let the game come to them and to take shots only within the flow of the offense. While Donovan has expressed concern with the way Rosario has responded to that admonition, Boynton appears to have taken his coach’s advice. Even though he struggled shooting the ball in Friday’s blowout win over LSU, Donovan was pleased that Boynton dished out seven assists, and didn’t force anything on the offensive end. In this game, Boynton’s play sparked the Gators’ run, as Boynton scored seven of their 15 points. On the day, he led Florida with 16 points, and Donovan has made it clear that he has no problem with Boynton continuing to shoot the ball when he gets good looks, and if he continues to do that, the Gators chances to make a deep March run in a wide-open field are pretty good.
- Did Alabama’s Bubble Burst? With Kentucky falling outside the RPI top 50 after last night’s loss to Vanderbilt, Alabama owns no wins over top-50 teams. When compared to other bubble teams, that may do in the Crimson Tide. In most years, their resume wouldn’t even merit contention for a spot. But this year, given that the committee is considering so many unimpressive resumes, there’s always a chance. Alabama coach Anthony Grant was quick to point out when asked about the Tide’s chances after the game that whether his team has done enough to make the Big Dance is not his concern. “I don’t deal in that. [The committee has] a tough enough job,” he said. Instead, he’ll sit back and wait to see what happens, but it’s much more likely that his team will be hosting a first-round NIT game than playing in the Big Dance.
Star of the Game. Kenny Boynton. Gators center Patric Young was too much for Alabama to handle, but Boynton keyed their turnaround, and sent Donovan’s team to the championship game for only the second time in six years.
Sights and Sounds. Bridgestone Arena is a much more exciting place when Kentucky is around, and with the Wildcats eliminated on Friday night, plenty of good seats were still available. Most of the upper deck was empty, and neither school had a particularly large number of fans. Still, Bridgestone is an excellent setting for basketball, and there was good energy in the building for this highly competitive game.
Quotable. “They’re in a position, I think, to try to go and win a national championship.” – Anthony Grant, on Florida.
Wildcard. Florida is a match-up nightmare for smaller teams. With both Young, whose physique may be unmatched in college basketball, and Erik Murphy, who at 6’10″ can draw defenders away from the basket and knocks down threes at an impressive clip (48%) as well as post up smaller players who try to guard him, clubs like Alabama don’t have the personnel to negate their effect. In the NCAA Tournament, if the Gators receive a favorable draw from the Selection Committee, a run to Atlanta is not out of the question.
What’s Next. Florida will take on the winner of the other semifinal between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on Sunday, and the Gators will be a prohibitive favorite to cut the nets down tomorrow afternoon. For Alabama, it’s sit and wait, though the lack of quality wins may doom the Crimson Tide, and the NIT may be the next time we see them.