The regular season is over. What a season it was for the Florida Gators! Despite some erratic play in the beginning, and some embarrassing losses to Jacksonville, UCF and South Carolina, the Gators closed the season out on fire. They rolled to a 13-3 SEC mark and the outright regular season championship.
Chandler Parsons found his jumper. Then Kenny Boynton found his. Vernon Macklin also found his hook shot. From then on, the Gators had some offense to go with the stellar defense they had been playing all season. Instead of winning close games late, lately the Gators have been putting teams away early.
This week, Florida turned a 30-30 halftime nail biter against Alabama into a 78-51 blowout. Three-pointers were falling from everywhere in the second half. The Gators hit seven out of nine in the second half after starting the game 1-for-12. The second half of that game was probably the best basketball the team has played since the back-to-back championship years.
Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin each scored 19 points to lead the Gators. Kenny Boynton had 14 with four three-pointers, and Alex Tyus had 12. Parsons led UF with 11 rebounds.
The crowd roared its approval with every Gator stop on defense and every made basket. It seemed the seniors could do no wrong on this Senior Night.
After the game was out of reach, Coach Donovan let Adam Allen in the game to dribble out the clock. Allen played only one season and spent his final three seasons having multiple knee surgeries. It was a great way to celebrate a championship.
But this Gator team would not be satisfied to share the title. They wanted it all to themselves. When Alabama beat Georgia early on Saturday, Florida knew it had to win in a very tough environment to claim the title alone. Memorial Gym in Nashville is no picnic.
The game did not start too well for the visitors either. Kenny Boynton could not find the range on his jumper. But when he finally hit one to cut a seven-point Vandy lead to four, it sparked the offense.
Parsons then quickly hit another, and it was a one-point game. The Gators ended up closing the first half on a 20-5 run to take a 38-30 lead into the locker room.
Vandy rallied in the second half to cut the Gator lead to two at 48-46. But that was as close as they would get. Boynton and Erving Walker made big shot after big shot to keep the Commodores at bay and give Florida a 10-point win, 86-76.
Boynton led the Gators with 17 points, and Walker finished with 16. The other three starters each had 13 points, and Patric Young chipped in nine.
Florida will now go into the SEC Tournament as the No. 1 seed and will play the third game on Friday night.
I don't know if the Gators will win the SEC Tournament or not, but even if they don't, it has been a great season in Gainesville. Hopefully, this team will continue in the postseason to play like it has the last few weeks of the regular season. If they do, we are in for one fantastic ride.