Now, the Gators have a chance to win their first Southeastern
Conference tournament championship.
Roberson scored a career-high 35 points and Walsh, ignoring the
usual heckling that accompanies his every move, added 20 to lead
Florida past Vanderbilt 91-69 in the semifinals of the Southeastern
Walsh bounced back from a miserable game -- he was 1-of-15
shooting in a quarterfinal victory over Alabama -- to help send the
Gators (20-9) into Sunday's final against No. 4 Kentucky.
Vanderbilt (21-9) has probably done enough to earn an NCAA bid,
especially after knocking off regular-season champion Mississippi
State on Friday night.
But the Commodores were blown out by Florida in the second half,
overwhelmed by a team that was ranked No. 1 in December but has
endured an up-and-down season.
Maybe the Gators are peaking at the right time. They made
17-of-24 shots in the second half and finished at 63 percent
(32-of-51) overall. They turned a game that was tight at halftime --
Florida led 40-38 -- into a laugher over the final 20 minutes.
Roberson and Lee Humphrey hit back-to-back 3s to push the Gators
ahead 70-60 with just under nine minutes remaining.
Vanderbilt missed nine straight shots, going more than six
minutes between field goals. By the time Scott Hundley broke the
drought with four minutes left, Florida was cruising.
Roberson had a lot to do with it. The sophomore guard easily
eclipsed his previous career best of 28 points with the
highest-scoring game by a Florida player this season. He was
hitting from everywhere -- 7-of-8 on 3-pointers, 12-of-15 in all.
Playing in its fourth SEC tournament final, Florida will be
going for its first championship. The Gators are one of only two
schools in the league that have never won the tourney; the other is
South Carolina, which only entered the league in 1992.
Then there's Kentucky, which has won the tournament 24 times.
Walsh is probably looking forward to a chance to get back at the
The Georgia Dome will be dominated by Wildcat fans on Sunday, a
sort of Rupp Arena South. The last time Walsh played in the actual
Rupp, he was heckled so viciously that Kentucky sent a letter of
apology to Florida.
Of course, Walsh gets that sort of treatment everywhere he goes
in the SEC -- a convenient target with his long, curly hair and
Vandy fans taunted Walsh just about every time he touched the
ball, but he wasn't paying attention. The sophomore made 8-of-11
from the field, including four shot beyond the arc. He also had six
rebounds, two assists and a block.
Mario Moore scored 16 points to lead Vanderbilt, which shot only
The first half gave little indication of the rout that was to
come. Florida grabbed an early 19-13 lead, but the final minutes
were more indicative of how things went.
Walsh hit a 3-pointer to put the Gators up 35-31. Dawib
Przybyszewski answered with a dunk and a 3, sending the Commodores
back ahead. Walsh sank another trey to push Florida to the lead,
then Hundley got loose under the basket for a lay-in to tie the
score at 38.