ATLANTA (AP) -- Matt Walsh preferred to focus on Florida's recent
SEC tournament success rather than its history of futility.
Who could blame him?
David Lee scored 20 points, Walsh hit six free throws in the
final 17 seconds and the Gators (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, Unranked AP) held on for a 68-62 victory over
Alabama (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) on Saturday to make the Southeastern Conference
championship game for the second straight year.
Nevermind that they haven't won the tournament in 39 previous
trips and are 0-for-4 when playing for the title.
"It's exciting. That's just good for the University of
Florida," said Walsh, who had 17 points. "We've only been here
five times in our history. That's a testament to how good our team
The Gators (22-7) have been giving plenty of evidence for that
on the court, winning six games in a row and cementing their spot
in the NCAA Tournament even before the latest win.
They 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.
"It was a lot of 1-on-1 in the post and we felt he could score
every time," Florida's Anthony Roberson said.
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.
Roberson had 13 points and Brewer added 10 for Florida.
Alabama, meanwhile, awaits its NCAA Tournament destination.
"That loss is over," the Tide's Chuck Davis said. "We're
Winston had 17 of his 19 points in the second half 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.
"It's not rocket science," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said.
"If we'd made a few more shots, it would have been a different
game, but we couldn't find the bottom of the net."
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. Shelton had a deep thigh bruise and also twisted
his ankle, limping off the court briefly after taking a charge.
Plus, Davis was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting inside.
With that combination, Gottfried felt fortunate to keep the game
"Earnest is a nonfactor, Kennedy has a really bad first half
and Chuck never really gets it going," he said. "And we lose by
six. We did a lot of things well."
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
But Florida seldom gave the Tide's shooters open looks from the
"We made a very, very big effort to take away the 3-point
line," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.
Alabama still managed to briefly take the lead, at 36-35, before
"I didn't think they were going to go away, considering how
talented they are and how hungry," Gottfried said.
Still, Lee and the Gators will try another time for that elusive
"I didn't want this to be my last SEC game," Lee said. "I
really wanted the younger guys on the team to have that