In just a couple of minutes into top-ranked Florida's 72-49 win over Missouri in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday, Scottie Wilbekin showed why coaches named him the league's player of the year.
With Florida, 30-2 now and a 24-game winning streak, clinging to a four-point lead Wilbekin stole the ball, got a return pass from Will Yeguete and banged home a three. A little over a minute later, Wilbekin took the ball away from Mizzou and while still lying on the floor called timeout. When play resumed he hit another 3-pointer and a tight game became a 50-36 Gators lead just like that.
Wilbekin finished with 15 points, along with Michael Frazier, to lead the Gators -- who continued with a 28-4 run in that nine-minute rally sparked by Wilbekin to finish off Mizzou (22-11).
Florida will play the South Carolina-Tennessee winner in Saturday's 1 p.m. semifinal.
Once again, the second half proved magical for Florida after an average first 20 minutes.
Casey Prather had a pair of free throws and a layup off the break to keep the margin and Frazier's fourth 3-pointer of the game made it 57-40 with 4:16 to go.
The Tigers went 7 minutes, 35 seconds without a basket as the Gators put together the winning run.
Missouri had hoped to clinch an NCAA Tournament bid and end top-ranked Florida's winning streak. The Gators are now 19-0 vs. SEC teams after the first perfect finish in an 18-game regular season in the league's history.
Florida looked tentative in the early going, scoring just one field goal in the first six minutes. Missouri led 11-7 on Torren Jones basket off a rebound at 12:52.
The Gators came back with their best stretch in the first half, outscoring the Tigers 15-5 in a stretch of more than seven minutes to take a 22-16 lead. But Missouri, which scored 16 points in the paint in the opening 20 minutes, got a bucket and free throw by Jabari Brown (game-high 18 points), a basket inside by backup center Keanau Post and two more Brown free throws to cut the margin back to 25-23.
After Patric Young and Kasey Hill scored their only baskets of the half, the Tigers tied it at the half with a 6-0 run. Ryan Rosburg got a layup at the halftime buzzer to make it 29-29 after layups by Jordan Clarkson and Johnathan Williams on the previous two possessions. Florida shot just 34.6 percent in the first half (9 of 26). Leading scorer Casey Prather (14.6 points an outing) had just a pair of foul shots at that point. Yeguete, the Gators' second-leading rebounder and a top defender inside, was limited to six minutes after picking up two early fouls. That also helped Mizzou be more of a factor inside.
Florida scored the first seven points of the second half to retake the lead. The Tigers didn't score until Brown's bucket in the lane with 16:19 remaining.
Clarkson made it a two-point game at 11:57 before Yegeute had a basket inside, Wilbekin got his first clutch three in the winning rally three off the steal, Young got a bucket in the paint and Prather hit two foul shots to make it 47-37 with 8:37 left.
Each of Florida's senior starters scored two points in that 8-0 run, the same kind of teamwork they've shown all season. Frazier had a couple of huge 3-pointers that helped make the game a blowout from there.