NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Florida closed the Southeastern Conference tournament by continuing its season-long trend of coming up short in close games.
The 13th-ranked Gators can only hope it isn’t a sign of things to come.
Florida led by as many as 14 points and was up 12 at halftime Sunday before Mississippi rallied for a 66-63 victory to win its first SEC tournament title since 1981.
Florida (26-7) entered the day leading the nation in scoring margin, but the Gators now head into the NCAA tournament with an 0-6 record in games decided by six points or fewer. All their wins have featured double-digit margins.
Gators coach Billy Donovan said he wasn’t concerned about his team’s confidence in these types of down-to-the-wire situations.
What happens sometimes is people try to create drama around a situation that’s not necessarily true, Donovan said.
Donovan said Florida’s problem Sunday wasn’t execution in the closing minutes when the Gators nearly worked their way back from a six-point deficit. He instead cited the Gators’ offensive struggles and uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns early in the second half.
Mississippi (26-8) opened the second half on a 26-8 run to take a six-point lead. Florida fought its way back from there and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds.
After getting fouled with 4.2 seconds left, Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin missed his first free throw and then intentionally missed his second attempt. The rebound went to Boynton, who took a step behind the three-point line and attempted a game-tying shot that bounced off the rim.
Boynton scored 13 points to make the all-tournament team along with teammate Erik Murphy. Mike Rosario had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Gators, while Murphy Holloway had 23 points and 10 rebounds for Mississippi.
But this tournament belonged to Mississippi guard Marshall Henderson.
Henderson was 1 of 6 from the field and scored three points in the first half Sunday. He finished with 21 points and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
No. 16 ST. LOUIS 62, No. 25 VCU 56: In New York, Kwamain Mitchell scored 19 points, including a huge three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and tournament MVP Dwayne Evans added 16 to lead the Billikens (27-6) to their first Atlantic 10 tournament title.
Treveon Graham led VCU (26-8) with 20 points.
No. 15 DELAWARE 59, DREXEL 56: In Marlboro, Md., Elena Delle Donne scored 28 points, and the Blue Hens (30-3) won their second straight Colonial Athletic Association title and extended their school-record winning streak to 25 games.
The victory earned the Blue Hens an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Taylor Wootton scored 21 for the third-seeded Dragons (22-10), and Hollie Mershon had 18.
No. 20 GREEN BAY 54, LOYOLA OF CHICAGO 38: In Green Bay, Wis., Sarah Eichler scored 16 points and Adrian Ritchie added 15 points as the Phoenix (29-4), winners of 24 in a row, won their third Horizon League tournament title in a row and fifth straight NCAA tournament berth.
Simone Law led the Ramblers (17-15) with 12 points and a career high-tying 14 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season.