ATLANTA — When the first half against Vanderbilt ended Saturday, Florida's Kenny Boynton had eight points, fellow guard Erving Walker had zero, and the Gators trailed by eight.
So during the halftime break, the two decided they had to respond in the second half of the SEC tournament semifinals as if there was no tomorrow.
After all, lose and it's over.
So in the second half, Walker had a stretch of nine straight points and Boynton a stretch of 10 straight as the two helped lead Florida to a 77-66 victory in front of 21,728 at the Georgia Dome.
The Gators (26-6) play in today's final at 1 against Kentucky (24-8), which beat Alabama 72-58.
Boynton scored a game-high 24 and Walker 17 in Florida's third straight come-from-behind victory, the last two coming in the tournament.
"In the second half we have been down the last two games, so it was square in our face that we had to come out with a lot better intensity and defend," Walker said. "In the first half we have a bad habit of waiting to see how hard we have to play, and we've got to get out of that."
Florida trailed by 12 points 1:10 into the second half, then went on an 18-6 run to take a 51-50 lead. Tied at 57, the Gators outscored Vanderbilt 20-9 the remainder of the game.
"I thought we probably could have been down a lot more at the half," said coach Billy Donovan of Florida's 11 first-half turnovers. "But in the second half, we came out, and I thought for most of the half played pretty well.
"And I think the big key was that we got stops and we held them to a low percentage from the field."
Vanderbilt (23-10) shot 43 percent (14-of-32) from the field in the first half but just 29 percent (9-of-31) in the second. For the game, the Commodores made just 6 of 33 3-pointers compared with Florida's 11 of 21.
"We had a hard time making shots," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "We just did not shoot the ball well. And they got hot in the second half and made some tough ones.
"But that's what they do. That's what they have done all season long, and that's why they're the league (regular-season) champion."
With the Gator starters sputtering, Donovan went to his bench, including little-used freshman forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete. Florida's bench outscored Vanderbilt 13-0, and freshman center Patric Young had a career-high eight rebounds off the bench.
Florida now has defeated two SEC teams three times in one season for the first time in school history. The Gators defeated Tennessee for the third time in Friday's quarterfinal.
"That's special," said senior forward Chandler Parsons, who had 16 points and nine rebounds.
"It shows how many different options we have. It definitely is a big boost for us. That's just us following scouting very well and playing hard."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.
The division of dominance
Since the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, a team from the East Division has won 15 tournaments. And No. 16 is guaranteed with two East teams advancing to today's final. The champions:
1994: Kentucky *
1996: Miss. St. #
1997: Kentucky *
1998: Kentucky *
2000: Arkansas #
2002: Miss. St. #
2004: Kentucky *
2005: Florida *
2006: Florida *
2009: Miss. St. #
* All-East final # West team