No. 1 Gators Search for First SEC Championship Since 2007; Open Tournament Friday Afternoon

By on March 13, 2014. Posted in , , , .

The No.1-ranked Florida Gators completed the first 18-0 regular season in SEC history with a convincing 84-65 win over Kentucky on Saturday.  Now the Gators look to make more history by winning their first SEC Championship since 2007 when they open tournament play as the No. 1 seed on Friday.  Florida will play either Missouri or Texas A&M in a quarterfinal game which is scheduled to tip off at 1:00 p.m. at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  The game will air nationally on ESPNU.

The Charm City Gators will not host a watch party for Friday’s game, but if Billy Donovan’s squad advances, a watch party will be hosted at The Greene Turtle in McHenry Row on Saturday for another 1:00 p.m. game.

Florida (29-2, 18-0 SEC) saw its 21-point halftime lead over Kentucky shrink to just six, 53-47, with 12:25 left in the second half, but woke back up to record its largest-ever win over the Wildcats and send its seniors off in style.  Forward Patric Young led all scorers with 18 points in his final game in front of the beloved Rowdy Reptiles, while classmates Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin added 15 and 13 points, respectively.  Sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith was huge off the bench for UF, scoring 11 points, grabbing six rebounds, and blocking two shots.

The Gator offense has been versatile all season as four players average double figures.  Defense has been where Florida has made its mark this season, however, limiting opponents to an SEC-low 58.5 points per game (ppg), an average that ranks fifth in the nation.

Florida defeated Texas A&M and Missouri in back-to-back home games back on Feb. 1 and 4 at the O’Connell Center.  Now the Aggies and Tigers will battle on Thursday afternoon (1:00 p.m. ESPN3) for the right to face the Gators again.

Texas A&M (17-14, 8-10 SEC) enters the weekend as the No. 9 seed after dropping its regular season finale at home to Auburn, 69-64.  The Aggies rank 13th of 14 teams in the SEC in scoring offense, but limit the opposition to just 62.5 ppg, the third-best average in the conference.

Missouri (21-10, 9-9 SEC) was stomped at Tennessee, 72-45, in Knoxville on Saturday to fall to the No. 8 seed in the SEC tournament.  The Tigers have the second-most efficient offense in the league, trailing only Florida, by connecting on 45.8 percent of their shots.  Missouri can get careless with the basketball, however, and ranks 12th in the SEC with a -1.87 turnover margin this season.