Florida beats Vanderbilt, clinches title
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Kenny Boynton cut the final strand, waved the net above his head and then hung it around his neck.
No doubt, his home finale ended perfectly.
Florida won its fourth outright league title and third under longtime coach Billy Donovan. The Gators (24-5, 14-3 SEC) also were alone atop the standings in 1988-89, 2006-07 and 2010-11.
Like the others, this one earned the Gators the No. 1 seed heading into next week's SEC tournament. It also capped a perfect season (15-0) at home and sent seniors Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario out with a victory on ''Senior Night.''
After the win, the Gators started cutting down the nets.
''It felt good,'' Boynton said. ''I definitely want that feeling again. In order to get it, we've definitely got to keep winning.''
Boynton got the remnants of the first net, which he later gave to teammate Will Yeguete to take photos in the stands. Donovan made the final four cuts — no, he wasn't trying to foreshadow anything — on the other end.
Donovan credited his players for persevering through numerous injuries and said they definitely overachieved this season.
''They put a common goal out there in front of them and strived and reached for it together, and the amount of sacrifice that goes into it all the way around,'' Donovan said. ''There's a lot to be learned from this team for each other before they go onto the next step.''
Kedren Johnson had 15 points for the Commodores (13-16, 7-10), including 13 straight at one point.
''Once we got frustrated from not hitting shots, it translated to the defensive end,'' Johnson said.
Boynton, Murphy and Rosario were honored before the game, each walking out with family members and getting a framed jersey from Donovan.
The tribute and having so many friends and family members on hand may have been a little overwhelming since all of them started slowly.
Boynton missed four of his first five shots. Murphy missed his first two. Rosario was off on three of his first five.
They settled down after halftime and got the Gators going, especially from 3-point range.
After Vanderbilt cut a double-digit lead to seven, Florida went on a 25-8 run that turned a tight game into a lopsided affair. Michael Frazier II started the spurt with his first of two 3's. Murphy and Boynton also drained shots from behind the arc, putting the Gators up 43-30.
Things got a little testy from there.
Vanderbilt's Sheldon Jeter got called for a charge and was given a technical foul for arguing with the officials. Boynton hit both free throws on the other end, and then the Commodores were given a bench warning for more comments.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stalling clearly wasn't pleased. He was equally upset with what appeared to be a no call on Yeguete's pass to himself that led to Frazier's first 3.
''Once you start letting them take shots from the perimeter, you're done,'' Stallings said. ''We did a pretty good job up to that point. We probably, at some point, just got frustrated with our own inability to make a shot. Eventually, that impacts your defense.''
The Gators have been the class of the conference all season, winning 14 SEC games by double digits.
Boynton, Murphy and Rosario have been major contributors to the team's success. Donovan recognized them again with 2:18 remaining when he called time out and took them out of the game. Murphy finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Rosario had five points, three assists and two rebounds.
The loudest ovation came as they climbed the ladder and took aim at the net.
''It was up to Coach and he came up to us and said, `Do you guys want to?''' Murphy said. ''Of course we want to. That was something special, too, in itself. I haven't done that in my college career and it was a great feeling.''
Fans chanted ''one more year, one more year'' as Young, a junior, climbed the ladder. He smiled and later said he hadn't made up his mind about turning pro.
''I'm really excited to get that ring,'' said Young, who had 10 points in the first half. ''I got it my freshman year and that thing was nice. I want one that looks even better this time.''