(16) Florida 68

(22-7, 12-4 SEC)

(21) Alabama 62

(24-7, 12-4 SEC)

    1:00 PM ET, March 12, 2005

    Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

    1 2 T
    #16FLA 27 4168
    #21ALA 20 4262

    Top Performers

    Florida: D. Lee 20 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

    Alabama: J. Davidson 10 Pts, 11 Reb, 2 Blk

    Ole Miss just 3-of-19 from 3-point range

    ATLANTA (AP) -- Matt Walsh preferred to focus on Florida's recent SEC tournament success rather than its history of futility.

    Who could blame him?

    David Lee scored 20 points, Walsh hit six free throws in the final 17 seconds and the Gators (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, Unranked AP) held on for a 68-62 victory over Alabama (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) on Saturday to make the Southeastern Conference championship game for the second straight year.

    Nevermind that they haven't won the tournament in 39 previous trips and are 0-for-4 when playing for the title.

    "It's exciting. That's just good for the University of Florida," said Walsh, who had 17 points. "We've only been here five times in our history. That's a testament to how good our team is."

    The Gators (22-7) have been giving plenty of evidence for that on the court, winning six games in a row and cementing their spot in the NCAA Tournament even before the latest win.

    They took a 58-51 lead on Walsh's long 3-pointer. Alabama (24-7) twice cut the deficit to three points after that, but Lee had a fastbreak layup off a pass from Corey Brewer and another drive to the basket in the final minute.

    "It was a lot of 1-on-1 in the post and we felt he could score every time," Florida's Anthony Roberson said.

    Kennedy Winston's basket in the lane made it 62-59 with 18 seconds left, giving the Crimson Tide one last shot. But Walsh clinched the win with a 6-for-6 finish from the line.

    Roberson had 13 points and Brewer added 10 for Florida.

    Alabama, meanwhile, awaits its NCAA Tournament destination.

    "That loss is over," the Tide's Chuck Davis said. "We're moving on."

    Winston had 17 of his 19 points in the second half but like the rest of his teammates, was cold from 3-point range, going 1-for-8. The Tide made 13 3-pointers in the tournament opener against Mississippi but made just three this time in 19 tries.

    "It's not rocket science," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "If we'd made a few more shots, it would have been a different game, but we couldn't find the bottom of the net."

    Earnest Shelton tied a school record with eight 3s in the opener against Mississippi. Against Florida, he was 0-for-4 and managed just six points. Shelton had a deep thigh bruise and also twisted his ankle, limping off the court briefly after taking a charge.

    Plus, Davis was held to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting inside.

    With that combination, Gottfried felt fortunate to keep the game so close.

    "Earnest is a nonfactor, Kennedy has a really bad first half and Chuck never really gets it going," he said. "And we lose by six. We did a lot of things well."

    Florida's shooters started out hot, then the Gators started going inside to Lee after the outside shots stopped falling.

    Lee Humphrey, Walsh and Roberson each hit a pair of 3s as Florida opened a 24-14 lead, then the team went cold. The Gators made just one field goal and scored three points over the next 12 minutes extending into the second half, allowing Alabama to tie it up.

    But Florida seldom gave the Tide's shooters open looks from the perimeter.

    "We made a very, very big effort to take away the 3-point line," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.

    Alabama still managed to briefly take the lead, at 36-35, before fading.

    "I didn't think they were going to go away, considering how talented they are and how hungry," Gottfried said.

    Jean Felix had 11 points off the bench for the Tide, while Jermareo Davidson had 10 points and 11 rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul midway through the second half.

    Still, Lee and the Gators will try another time for that elusive tourney title.

    "I didn't want this to be my last SEC game," Lee said. "I really wanted the younger guys on the team to have that experience."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 68 62
    FG Made-Attempted 23-56 (.411) 24-63 (.381)
    3P Made-Attempted 8-20 (.400) 3-19 (.158)
    FT Made-Attempted 14-20 (.700) 11-15 (.733)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 16 (0/0) 16 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 10 2

    2004-05 Season

    Feb 5, 2005 @FLA 85, ALA 54Recap
    » Mar 12, 2005 FLA 68, @ALA 62Recap