NASHVILLE -- Florida has so many killer perimeter players with the same skill set that it's hard to distinguish who is the best. Unless the best reveals himself in critical moments, as senior Kenny Boynton did on Saturday. Boynton scored 11 consecutive points in a 13-0 second half run that lifted the Gators from a 10-point deficit and toward a 61-51 Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals victory over Alabama in Bridgestone Arena. Florida (26-6), the league's regular season champion, advanced to Sunday's noon championship game against either Ole Miss or Vanderbilt. The Gators have won the SEC tournament three times. It looked like they wouldn't get a shot in the final until Boynton scored all of his game-total 16 points in the game's final 15 minutes. He confidently slashed through traffic to the basket and didn't hesitate on catch and shoot 3-pointers. His outburst energized his teammates, such as center Patric Young. Young, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. While not being a main scoring option on a team of outside gunners, Young was dominant in Florida's closing kick. Young scored six straight points, including a steal and dunk, to push the Gators' lead to double-digits with 3:22 left, then drew a charging foul from Alabama's Retin Obasohan with 1:22 left. Guards Trevor Releford led Alabama (21-12) with 12 points and Trevor Lacey had led Alabama (21-12) 11 points respectively. Lacey made half of the Crimson Tide's six 3-pointers, but the Gators' Boynton held Lacey scoreless in the game's final 10:25. Alabama matched Florida almost shot for shot through the game's first five minutes. The Tide's combination of Releford, Lacey and Levi Randolph countered Boynton, Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin fastbreak for fastbreak, penetration for penetration. That meant the X factor had to come from someone else other than the guards, and that guy was Alabama forward Nick Jacobs. Jacobs, a 6-9 sophomore who has almost 20 pounds during the course of the season, gave Alabama a finishing inside presence that Florida didn't possess. When the Tide held a 28-25 halftime lead, Jacobs had already scored nine points off the bench, more than Florida starting forward Erik Murphy. Murphy, who had a career-high 27 points in Friday's quarterfinal win over LSU, had four points in the first half vs. Alabama, and finished with only six.
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- Kenny Boynton