ATLANTA - Patric Young scored a game-high 16 points and top-seeded Florida overcame a 10-point first-half deficit Saturday to defeat fourth-seeded Tennessee, 56-49, to advance to Sunday's Southeastern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.
Florida (31-2) notched its 25th consecutive victory in a game that it trailed 35-28 at halftime. The Gators shot 47.7 percent (21-of-44) from the field in the game, including a 54.5 percent (12-of-22) clip in the first half. Tennessee shot 41.3 percent (19-of-46) in the game and won the rebound battle 30-24.
Young's 16 points came on 6-of-11 shooting and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free-throw line to complement a team-high eight rebounds. Scottie Wilbekin added 14 points with four steals, while Casey Prather scored 12.
Tennessee (21-12) was led by 15 points from Jordan McRae, while Jarnell Stokes added 13 and Jeronne Maymon 10. Maymon also brought down a game-high nine rebounds. The Vols committed 16 turnovers in the game and Florida converted those miscues into 18 points.
Florida advances to Sunday's SEC Tournament Championship Game, which is slated for a 3:15 p.m. ET start on ESPN. It will face the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between second-seeded Kentucky and third-seeded Georgia.
Observations From Frank Giardina Longtime sports journalist and collegiate athletics administrator Frank Giardina will offer his thoughts and observations throughout each game of the 2014 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament.
***Tennessee junior Jarnell Stokes has played for USA Basketball on the U 18 and U 19 team the last two summers. His coach on those teams was Florida head coach Billy Donovan. Team won Gold Medal last 2 summers.
***The SEC is loaded with incredible all-around student athletes. Florida basketball big man Patric Young great example of that. He is a 3 time SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year. Young can score, rebound and defend. The man can also sing. Did you hear his performance on Friday on the video board in the Georgia Dome. He brought down the house with his well done version of Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band.
***Remember when he was known as "Billy the Kid." Not anymore. Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan is now the Dean of SEC men's basketball coaches. He is in his 18th season as the Gators head basketball and seems destined to someday be in the Hall of Fame. Today, Donovan and his Gators take on Tennessee in the first semi-final game in the SEC tournament.
***The college basketball nation first discovered Florida coach Billy Donovan in the spring of 1987. He and Indiana transfer Delray Brooks led the Providence Friars on a Cinderella NCAA tournament run that saw them upset their way to the Final Four. That was also the spring that many in the college hoops world also discovered a bright, young Providence coach by the name of Rick Pitino. It was a star studded Final Four that featured Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers, Syracuse and Jim Boeheim and UNLV and Jerry Tarkanian. Since that time Billy Donovan has become a part of the fabric of March Madness as he has led Florida to 2 NCAA titles, one runner-up finish and 13 NCAA Tournament appearances.
***Fans in the SEC know Cuonzo Martin as the head men's basketball coach at Tennessee. However, in the Big Ten fans remember him a part of one of the best playing tandems in Big Ten history. Martin had an outstanding playing career for Gene Keady at Purdue from 1991-95. His famous teammate was "the Big Dog" Glenn Robinson who was a Wooden Award winner as Player of the Year. Together they led Purdue to back to back Big Ten titles in 1994 and 1995. They still speak with reverence about Robinson and Cuonzo Martin in West Lafayette.
***Not sure what it is about pep bands in the SEC. Many great bands around country, but SEC pep bands play with more passion, more showmanship, and sound louder than other bands. Series Notes: • All-Time Series: Tennessee leads 72-55 • SEC Tournament: Tied at 4-4 • Season Series: Florida leads 3-0 • Florida prevailed 67-41 in Gainesville on Jan. 25 and 67-58 in Knoxville on Feb. 11.
• There were six ties and six lead changes in the game. • After trailing by 10, 35-25 with 1:09 left in the first half, Florida went on a 13-2 run over the next 6:20 to take 38-37 lead at the 14:49 mark of the second. • The 10-point deficit marked the largest Florida has overcome for a win this year. The Gators' only other double-digit deficit was Wisconsin on Nov. 12. • It is the first time Florida has overcome a 10-point deficit for a win since the Ole Miss game in 2012. • Points off turnovers were 18-9 in favor of Tennessee. Florida Notes: • Florida improves to 30-2 and extends its program-record win streak to 25 games. • Florida advances to the SEC Tournament finals for the second straight year and third time in the last four. • Florida tied its lowest point total of the year. • Patrick Young scored in double figures for just the second time in the last five games with a team-high 16 points. He added a team-high eight rebounds. • Casey Prather matched his career bests for assists (5) and steals (4) while scoring in double figures for just the third time in the last seven games (12). • Michael Frazier tied his career high with four steals.
Tennessee Notes: • Tennessee falls 21-12 and snaps its season-long five-game win streak. • For the third time in the last six games, Tennessee shot better than 80 percent from the free throw line, going 9-for-11 for 81.8 percent. • Jordan McRae had his most points in five games with a team-high 15 along with two blocked shots. • Jeronne Maymon just missed his fifth double-double of the year with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds.