ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Thanks to David Lee and Matt Walsh, No. 25 Florida is just one win away from its first Southeastern Conference tournament title.
Lee scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half and Walsh added 17, including six free throws in the final 17 seconds, as the Gators edged No. 19 Alabama, 68-62, to advance to the SEC championship game.
The Gators (22-7), will play fourth-ranked Kentucky, who beat the Gators in last year's title game, in Sunday's championship for the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
"It's exciting to be back (in the championship game)," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team never had been in back-to-back SEC championship games. "I'm happy for our kids. Tomorrow, whether it's LSU or whether it's Kentucky, we're playing against a very very physical, big team."
After Alabama (24-7) made consecutive baskets to pull within 58-55, Lee made a fast-break layup with 1:13 remaining. Alabama's Jermareo Davidson countered with a jumper with 57 seconds to play, but Lee made another layup for a 62-57 cushion with 26 seconds left.
"They made the decision to go 1-on-1 in the post. I tried to take advantage of that," Lee said. "I tried to will our team to victory. I was able to hit a couple of shots."
"He just was making every shot," Alabama forward Chuck Davis said. "He was making big shots at key times of the game."
A senior forward, Lee scored all 13 of his second-half points in the game's final 12 minutes.
"My teammates and coaches know how much I want to win," Lee said. "Both as a senior and as a captain, I want to will my team to victory. I didn't want this to be my last SEC game."
Kennedy Winston, who scored 17 of his 19 points after the break, pulled the Crimson Tide within three points with a layup with 17 seconds remaining. But Walsh sank both ends of a 1-and-1 a second later, and Alabama got no closer than four points thereafter.
"I was going to the line focused," Walsh said. "I've been in that situation a lot lately."
Florida opened with a 16-8 run, powered by 6-of-8 shooting. Walsh and Anthony Roberson each made two 3-pointers.
"Early on, we were getting the ball into David (Lee), and we were getting the ball outside and getting some looks," Walsh said.
"We tried a couple of things early," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We tried a zone, but they stepped up and made shots."
The Gators took a 27-20 lead into the break after making 6-of-14 3-pointers. Alabama misfired on all seven 3-pointers in the half and finished 3-of-19 from the arc.
"At the end of the day, when you're 3-for-19 from the 3-point line, and you lose by six, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you make some more of your shots, you'd give yourself a chance," Gottfried said. "That was the story of the day."
The Crimson Tide scored the first seven points of the second half to tie the game, and neither team led by more than seven points thereafter.
"We struggled for about four minutes to get a basket," Donovan said of his team's 0-for-5 start after the break. "I tried to tell our guys it was going to be our defense and rebounds that would win the game."
Florida has won five straight and nine of the last 10 contests against Alabama.