Gators Collar Bulldogs Again!
After a sluggish finish to the regular season, the Florida Gators started the postseason as if they're fully capable of winning another national title.
Noumber 6 Florida scored the first 17 points of the game, built a 25-point lead before halftime and romped to a 74-57 victory over Georgia in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday night.
Taurean Green scored 19 points to lead the Gators (27-5), but this was a devastating group effort by a team that looked vulnerable when it closed February by losing three of four.
Florida opened March with a win over Kentucky, and the Gators are hoping that a third straight SEC tournament title will be enough to lock up a top seed in the NCAA field.
Georgia (18-13), which hasn't been to the NCAAs since 2002, was looking to bolster its credentials with an upset of the Gators. The Bulldogs didn't even come close, likely ensuring a trip to the National Invitation Tournament.
Florida showed off its imposing depth and versatility before the game was 4 minutes old.
Joakim Noah started the onslaught with a short jumper. Al Horford got loose on the inside for an easy hoop. Green swiped the ball away from the Bulldogs and went in for a layup. Corey Brewer drew a foul and hit both free throws. Green came up with another steal and fed it to Noah, who converted a three-point play. Finally, Lee Humphrey swished a 3 for a 14-0 lead.
That made Florida 5-for-5 - all five starters had scored, while Georgia was still stuck on zero.
In fact, when the Gators got to 15-0 on Chris Richard's free throw with 15:53 left in the half, they could have gone the rest of the period without scoring and still been ahead at the break.
As it was, Florida was up 35-14 by halftime. Georgia missed its first 13 shots and needed a late surge to reach 7-for-37 from the field, heading to the locker room after shooting a dismal 19 percent.
Maybe the Gators were inspired by the pregame festivities. Shortly before the tipoff, they gathered at midcourt to collect the trophy for winning their first outright SEC regular-season title since 1989.
Florida, which will meet either LSU or Mississippi in the semifinals Saturday, is even more of a tournament favorite than it was a day earlier. The Gators' top rivals in the SEC East - Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky - have all been sent home.
Of course, Florida has its sights on a bigger prize than the SEC championship, returning en masse to go for a second straight national title.
They're off to a good start this postseason.
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