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Florida routs Vandy to earn outright SEC crown

The SportsXchange

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Through a season filled with nagging injuries, No. 11 Florida has maintained its defense focus.

With the full squad finally back and clicking, the Gators overcame some inconsistent stretches to beat Vanderbilt 66-40 Wednesday and wrap up their fourth outright Southeastern Conference regular-season title.

Senior guard Kenny Boynton scored 15 points to lead the Gators (24-5, 14-3 SEC). Patric Young added 14 points, and Erik Murphy had 10 points and six rebounds.

The Gators have won two outright SEC regular-season titles in the past three seasons. Florida also finished the season a perfect 15-0 at home, its first perfect record at the O'Connell Center since going 18-0 in 2006-07.

"These moments are never easy," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It's a grind, and it can be ugly and frustrating. It's about persevering, fighting and being resilient, and that's what we did."

Florida held an opponent under 50 points for the 12th time this season. The Gators came into the game third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 53.4 points per game.

"Defense got it done for us tonight," Murphy said. "We weren't clicking on offense early, and (the strong defense) allowed us to overcome some things before we got into a rhythm."

Kedren Johnson led Vanderbilt (13-16, 7-10) with 15 points. The Commodores shot just 26.9 percent from the field and 16.7 percent (4-for-24) from 3-point range.

Vanderbilt's modest three-game winning streak ended.

"(Florida) did a good job getting to our shooters and contesting our shots," Johnson said, "but we also had trouble making open shots as well."

Vanderbilt cut Florida's lead to 37-29 early in the second half on two free throws from Sheldon Jeter. After leading 43-32, Florida put the game away with a 13-0 run.

"We probably, at some point, got frustrated with our own inability to make a shot," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "Eventually, that impacts your defense."

On Senior Night, the Gators turned to a junior in the early going. Young scored 10 of Florida's first 19 points on a variety of hook shots in the lane.

Up 11-6, Florida went on a 9-0 run fueled by defense. During the stretch, the Gators forced two shot-clock violations and threw the Commodores out of rhythm with their press. Though Florida forced just six turnovers in the first half, the Gators forced Vanderbilt into several rushed shot attempts.

A Murphy free throw put Florida up 20-6, but Vanderbilt responded with a quick 5-0 run. Johnson made Vanderbilt's only 3-pointer of the first half to cut Florida's lead to 20-11. Scottie Wilbekin stopped the run with a 3-pointer, and Florida went into halftime up 24-14.

The Gators held Vanderbilt to 22.7 percent shooting in the first half and 10 percent (1-for-10) from 3-point range. Florida shot 43.5 percent from the field and 2-for-6 from 3-point range before the break. The Gators outscored Vanderbilt 16-4 in the paint during the first half.

Florida wound up hitting 48.9 percent of its shots for the game, including nine of 18 from 3-point range.

NOTES: Florida seniors Murphy, Boynton and Mike Rosario were honored during pregame Senior Day ceremonies. ... With the new unbalanced SEC schedule this season, Florida and Vanderbilt will play just once. It marks the first time since 1965 that the two schools have not played a home-and-home series. ... Vanderbilt has lost 14 of its last 15 road games against Florida. ... The Gators' bench outscored the Commodores' bench 14-8.
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