College Hoops

Epic Rally Puts Gators in SEC Title Final

Epic Rally Puts Gators in SEC Title Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In rationalizing the handful of double-digit leads his Florida team had blown against some very good teams over the course of the 2023-24, Coach Todd Golden, ever the optimist, often pointed to the fact the Gators had played well enough in those games to build such leads in the first place. He never compromised the notion there was a higher ceiling out there for this team and it was just a matter of reaching it. 
 
Or, preferably, crashing through it.
 

And so there were the Gators Saturday, being pummeled by 18 late in the first half against Texas A&M, which was meeting next-to-no defensive resistance in their Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal game. Very little was going right for Golden and his team, but they refused to give in to the moment. Put another way, they never compromised. Instead, they closed ranks around their leader, banded together and staged a comeback for the ages behind a most unlikely hero.
 

Denzel Aberdeen

Sophomore guard Denzel Aberdeen came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points – one of five UF players with at least 15 points – and ignite the sixth-seeded Gators’ stirring rally and eventual 95-90 defeat of the No. 7-seed Aggies at Bridgestone Arena that earned the program its first berth in the SEC Tournament championship game in a decade. 
 
UF (24-10), looking at a fourth game in as many days, will play fourth-seeded and 12th-ranked Auburn (26-7) in the tournament title game Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) with hopes of bringing home just fifth tourney championship in program history – and first since Final Four-bound 2014 team – and building momentum toward next week’s NCAA Tournament, the Gators’ first in three years.
 
Yes, Florida blew some big leads this season. No, the Gators did not let that define them. Not even close.

They learned how to erase some deficits of their own.

 

“Obviously, I’m thrilled with the way our team performed today. I think this was a great example of the growth of our team and our program over the last couple months,” Golden said after his squad pulled off the largest come-from-behind win in UF’s 57 appearances in the league tournament. “I was just really proud of the way we maintained our composure when things weren’t going our way. Our belief didn’t waver.” 

 

Just like his belief in his players. Aberdeen, for example.

 

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