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SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2007
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Gators continue to rule
Florida coasts into Sunday’s SEC finals against Arkansas

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

ATLANTA — Welcome to Catlanta? Florida might not have an easy-to-make nickname for the SEC tournament like the University of Kentucky, but the Gators are putting quite a stamp on the 2007 version.

On Friday, Florida forward Joakim Noah described every big game his team plays as a circus. On Saturday, the Gators used their high-flying act to defeat Ole Miss 80-59.

Florida (28-5) plays for its third straight SEC tournament championship at noon Sunday, taking on Arkansas (21-12).

“There is no way you can go pound for pound with them,” Ole Miss forward Kenny Williams said. “A good team has that. It’s kind of frustrating because every time you cut the lead down, they take the punch, and they throw it back.”

There were few times that Ole Miss (20-12) nudged the score to a close margin. After getting down 37-22 in the first half, the Rebels got within 10 at 49-39 with 12:32 left in the second half only to see the Gators go on a 13-2 run.

At that point, the score was an unmanageable 62-41 for the Rebels, and the Gators erased any doubt as to who the favorite to win the SEC is.

“We’re focused and we realize we don’t want to go home,” Noah said. “We love playing with each other. We’re playing for jewelry.”

After losing two of its last three SEC regular-season games, the Gators have arrived in Atlanta as a more focused bunch. Overall, they have defeated both Ole Miss and Georgia by a combined 38 points.

Maybe the losses showed the Gators that they were beatable. Noah admitted after the game that the group is a little “on edge” during the postseason.

Against the Rebels, it was mostly an all-around effort. The Gators offense shot 48.3 percent, but the defense was what controlled the game.

Florida limited Ole Miss’ senior guards Todd Abernethy, Clarence Sanders and Bam Doyne most of the game. The only player who scored in double-digits for the Rebels was Doyne, who had 21 points. The next highest scorer was Williams with nine.

“Once we did get clean looks, I thought we rushed so much because we were so far out of rhythm trying to catch up,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We were looking for that mysterious eight-point shot. We couldn’t seem to find it.”

Corey Brewer led Florida with 22 points, while Taurean Green had 14 points and six assists.

Al Horford and Noah grabbed 13 and 12 rebounds, respectively.

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