Saturday, March 12, 2005
|Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson|
By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) -- Florida will take another shot at an SEC tournament title.
David Lee scored 20 points, Matt Walsh hit six free throws in the final 17 seconds and the Gators held on for a 68-62 victory over No. 20 Alabama on Saturday to make the Southeastern Conference championship game for the second straight year.
They'll try to avoid an 0-for-40 title drought Sunday against the Kentucky-LSU winner.
The Gators (22-7) took a 58-51 lead on Walsh's long 3-pointer. Alabama (24-7) twice cut the deficit to three points after that, but Lee had a fastbreak layup off a pass from Corey Brewer and another drive to the basket in the final minute.
Kennedy Winston's basket in the lane made it 62-59 with 18 seconds left, giving the Crimson Tide one last shot. But Walsh clinched the win with a 6-for-6 finish from the line.
He finished with 17 points, Anthony Roberson had 13 and Brewer added 10 for Florida. The Gators have played for the SEC championship five times but never had back-to-back appearances until now.
Alabama, meanwhile, awaits its NCAA tournament destination.
Winston had 19 points but like the rest of his teammates, was cold from 3-point range, going 1-for-8. The Tide made 13 3-pointers in the tournament opener against Mississippi but made just three this time in 19 tries.
Earnest Shelton tied a school record with eight 3s in the opener against Mississippi. Against Florida, he was 0-for-4 and managed just six points, with the Gators seldom giving the Tide open looks from the perimeter.
Florida's shooters started out hot, then the Gators started going inside to Lee after the outside shots stopped falling.
Lee Humphrey, Walsh and Roberson each hit a pair of 3s as Florida opened a 24-14 lead, then the team went cold. The Gators made just one field goal and scored three points over the next 12 minutes extending into the second half, allowing Alabama to tie it up.
The Tide managed to briefly take the lead, at 36-35, before fading.
Jean Felix had 11 points off the bench for the Tide, while Jermareo Davidson had 10 points and 11 rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul midway through the second half.
(All photos by Kent Gidley)
Evan Brock shoots the ball under the basket.
Chuck Davis battles for a rebound.
Chuck Davis shoots over a Gator defender.
Chuck Davis takes the ball to the glass.
Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson challenge a Gator shot.
Chuck Davis and Coach Gottfried chat.
Jean Felix lays the ball up.
Jean Felix weaves through traffic.
Jean Felix lays it in.
Jean Felix shoots over a Florida defender.
Coach Gottfried on the bench.
Coach Gottfried shows his emotion.
Coach Gottfried chats with his starting five.
Tide fan Noah Cheak from Oneonta, Alabama says "Roll Tide"!
Ronald Steele runs upcourt on a break.
Ronald Steele lays it in.
Kennedy Winston drives into the lane.
Kennedy Winston lays it up.
Kennedy Winston jumps as he sets to take the ball up.