NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kenny Boynton scored 17 points, all three of Florida's seniors reached double figures and the 14th-ranked Gators clinched the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with an 86-76 victory over No. 21 Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
Florida (24-6, 13-3) set a school record for conference wins and earned its third outright SEC title — its first since 2007.
In coach Billy Donovan's 500th game with the Gators, Florida pulled away after a technical foul on Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings midway through the second half. That wiped out a potential tie for the Commodores (21-9, 9-7) and gave the Gators a six-point swing.
The loss knocked Vanderbilt out of position for a first-round bye in next week's SEC tournament. The Commodores must now hope that No. 20 Kentucky beats Tennessee on Sunday to help them remain the Eastern Division's No. 3 seed.
Florida seniors Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin each scored 13 points and spurred a first-half comeback that wiped out Vanderbilt's biggest lead. They also made key plays down the stretch that helped the Gators pull away.
Vanderbilt, which was led by John Jenkins' 22 points, is 1-11 in season finales under Stallings. The coach made a crucial blunder in this one, too.
The Commodores had wiped away a 14-point deficit behind a spirited 16-6 run and strong second-half play from Jenkins and Rod Odom, and seemed set to tie the game with 9:19 left. Jenkins appeared to make a layup and draw a blocking foul on Parsons. But a second referee simultaneously called charging on Jenkins and before the officials could confer, Stallings walked about 12 feet onto the court and put his hand on his hips, indicating to the official that his crewmate had called a blocking foul.
The official called a technical foul on Stallings, and Boynton made both shots. Instead of a 56-all tie had Jenkins made his foul shot, the Commodores were down 58-53. The Gators inbounded the ball and Tyus hit a layup to make it 60-53.
Boynton then hit a 3-pointer a minute later to make it 65-54 with 8:05 left and Vanderbilt never seriously threatened again.
It was a whiplash-like momentum shift for the Commodores, one of two in the game. They started the first half hot behind Festus Ezeli's nine points in the first 4:59.
The Commodores looked as though they might be pulling away when Brad Tinsley drove the lane and threw down a big dunk to give Vanderbilt its biggest lead with 6:45 left in the first half. The sellout crowd leapt to its feet, but that only seemed to inspire the Gators.
Tinsley's dunk ended a 10-2 run that gave Vanderbilt a 25-18 lead, but Florida answered with a 16-2 spurt to wrest the lead from the Commodores and finished the half by outscoring Vanderbilt 20-12.
Boynton and Parsons got Florida rolling by combining for the Gators' next 11 points. Boynton started it with a 3-pointer in transition, Parsons then added his own and Boynton made a driving layup before Parsons hit another 3.
Jeffery Taylor hit a short jumper for his 10th point of the half, but Macklin re-established Florida's momentum with five straight points, and Florida took a 38-30 lead into the locker room after Erving Walker's uncontested layup with 3 seconds left.
It was Vanderbilt's largest halftime deficit at home this season.
Walker had 16 points and six assists for the Gators and Parsons added 10 rebounds, helping Florida to a 35-22 rebounding advantage. The Gators' 15 offensive rebounds led to 15 second-chance points.
Ezeli finished with 16 points for Vanderbilt and Taylor had 15.