Walker, Gators Edge the Vols

Erving Walker turned the corner, and his eyes lit up. The point guard had exactly what he wanted and what Florida head coach Billy Donovan drew up in a timeout. There was plenty of open space between him and the basket. The lane closed in, but Walker managed to throw it off the glass and in to give No. 17 Florida a 61-60 win over Tennessee Saturday night.

"When I first (looked at the defense), I didn't know what it was going to be like," Walker said. "It opened up, and I was just happy."

It secured the Gators' first season sweep of Tennessee since 2002. The win also gave Florida its 13th consecutive 20-win season. Only Duke, Kansas, Syracuse and Gonzaga have also won 20 games over the previous 13 years.

The Gators (20-5, 9-2 SEC) inbounded the ball with 25 seconds left in the game and Tennessee up one point. Instead of standing around and waiting for the last shot, Walker ran off a ball screen and headed towards the basket. Volunteers forward Tobias Harris was responsible for covering the lane, but the screen pulled him out to the perimeter.

By the time Walker got to the hoop, three Tennessee defenders converged to try and block the shot. As he always does, Walker found a way to sneak the ball through the defenders, bank it off the glass and through the hoop.

The crowd celebrated, but the players couldn't- not yet anyway.

Tennessee still had 14 seconds to score, but they ran a busted play that still produced an open three-point shot for guard Melvin Goins as time expired. The shot, similar to the potential game winning shot Kentucky's Brandon Knight had last Saturday, clanged off the left of the rim.

"I am disappointed in the execution at the end, in the sense that it started from the in-bound pass, worked its way up the floor and we didn't run what was called," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said. "I don't second guess what we called because if we executed what we called in transit, I have every confidence that we would have scored or got fouled.

"This is one of the more disappointing losses in my career."

The disappointment from Tennessee came after they dominated three-fourths of the game. The Volunteers led 35-29 at halftime after forcing ten Florida turnovers, with nine coming on steals. The beginning of the second half was more of the same. Lazy passes from Florida big men led to easy transition points for Tennessee, and they had ten of them in the game.

"I thought we should've been down at half," Donovan said. "They were 5-11 from behind the three-point line, and we had two. We felt good being down only six."

The intensity from Florida changed when it was down 45-38 with 10:40 left. Walker hit a three on the next possession, and the Gators took the lead on a Vernon Macklin fast break dunk with 8:26 left. Macklin shot up to the perimeter and tipped a Tennessee pass for an easy break away dunk.

"We were not quite aggressive as we needed to be," Donovan said. "To our guys' credit, we hung in there and fought and found a way to win the game. That's what you want to do in league play is give yourself a chance."

It looked like Florida's chances were over before Walker even touched the ball. On Florida's previous possession, Alex Tyus missed two free throws that would've given Florida the lead with 31 seconds left. The Gators were forced to foul, and Chandler Parsons grabbed Tennessee's Cameron Tatum with 25 seconds left.

Tatum missed the front end of the one-and-one, giving the Gators one last hope. That's when Walker gashed the middle and scored for the win.

The Gators won the game after getting almost nothing from senior forward Chandler Parsons. He hit Alex Tyus on a rebound only three minutes into the game, and Parsons was limping for the next few minutes. He went to the locker room and missed two minutes of play, but he reentered and played the rest of the first half.

Parsons played 37 minutes on what Donovan called a "deep thigh bruise." He had three points, three rebounds, zero assists and four turnovers. Donovan said he left him in the game only because of the attention he continued to draw from the Tennessee defense.

Donovan said after the game that Parsons isn't expected to be available in practice until later in the week, and he is unsure of whether or not the senior will be available at LSU on February 20.

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