Gators Overcome Sluggish Start

The Gators were in a hole for multiple reasons in the first half. Some players blamed a lack of energy, while others blamed poor shot selection. Whatever the reason, things changed in the second half, as Florida outscored the Bulldogs by 16 points on its way to a 71-62 victory Thursday night to clinch at least a share of the SEC East.

"In the first half, I felt like Georgia was the aggressor," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "They were quicker and we were just a step slow. We were fortunate to be down only seven."

When the second half started, the focus picked up for Florida. The players laughed and shook their head when asked about Donovan's halftime speech, but no one could pin down exactly what he said that spurred their performance.

In the first 1:26 of the second half, Chandler Parsons scored four points, which was just as many as he scored in the entire first half. His fast break dunk and a put back on the offensive glass got the crowd into the game and proved that the senior could play at a high level despite the deep thigh bruise.

"I think (the turning point) was CP's fastbreak dunk," guard Kenny Boynton said. "The crowd got loud, and then we came down and scored another basket after that. Momentum switched then. From the start of the second half to the end of the game, momentum definitely switched to our side."

Florida went on a 16-9 run in the first 6:48 of the second half to tie the game at 42. Erving Walker's layup on the next possession gave the Gators their first lead since an early 10-8 advantage.

The Bulldogs wouldn't go away easy.

Georgia forward Trey Thompkins dominated the paint in the second half and used his frame to push Alex Tyus around down low. Thompkins got position under the basket and had multiple layups to keep Georgia in the game. He scored ten points in the second half, and Donovan had to use freshman Patric Young to play physical against him and hold him out of the paint.

Georgia forward Travis Leslie led the team's scoring with 20, with 15 coming in the second half.

The knockout blow for Florida came out of the hand of Kenny Boynton. As always, the sophomore was inconsistent with his shot early in the game. He was 1-for-5 from the field in the first half.

However, when the team needed a big shot, Boynton put his early struggles behind him. The Gators held a one-point lead with 7:09 left in the game when Boynton hit three consecutive three-point shots to go on a 9-2 run by himself. It gave Florida an eight-point lead, and the game was never close after that.

Boynton can be a frustrating player when his shot isn't falling, but performances like Thursday night prove why the coaches trust him shooting the ball.

"It's a different feeling than I had in the first half," Boynton said. "I had open looks in the first half, and those felt different on the release. After the second one, it all just felt good."

The Florida defense stepped up its effort in the second half, holding Georgia to only 29 points. The Gators created 13 turnovers on the night and scored 23 points off those. Florida turned the ball over five times, and only two of those came in the second half.

Parsons ended the game with 16 points and seven rebounds, going 7-for-12 from the field and not turning the ball over once. It was his second to last game in the O'Connell Center, and with Tuesday's showdown with Alabama looming, the senior vowed that he won't miss another game this season.

The win also secured Florida the No. 1 seed and a bye in the SEC Tournament in two weeks.

The Gators will start scouting on Kentucky immediately before heading to Rupp Arena to play the Wildcats on Saturday at 4 p.m.

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