Parsons leads Gators past Georgia

The friendly confines of the O'Connell Center was enough to get the Florida Gators back to their winning ways again. After dropping two straight on the road, Florida rebounded with a 77-67 win against Georgia on Saturday afternoon.

For the first time since facing Florida State in November, neither Marreese Speights nor Nick Calathes reached double-digits in scoring, but the Gators (19-5, 6-3 SEC) got a big game from their bench, mainly Chandler Parsons who scored 18 points. It was the first time the freshman scored more than six points since dropping 15 at Ole Miss.

"That's the first time in eight games that he shot well," Billy Donovan said after the game. "Chandler made shots and we needed him to make shots. He gave us a big lift off of the bench."

Walter Hodge, Jai Lucas and Dan Werner also managed to score in double figures despite a poor shooting second half by the Gators. Florida made 44 percent of their shots from the floor in the second half, but were able to hold off a struggling Georgia (11-10, 2-6 SEC) team.

"I'm happy with our win today," Donovan said. "I made the comment before the game that after watching the Georgia/Vanderbilt game that they would play zone against us. They have big, strong frontcourt players. I thought we moved and passed the basketball, but I don't think we shot well from behind the 3-point line. We did keep shooting the basketball and we attacked when we could."

The Gators made just 7-of-27 shots from behind the arc, but unlike other games where they shot poorly from the outside, they were able to get the win. Florida held Georgia to just 38.7 percent shooting in the second half, but Donovan was critical of Florida's defensive effort.

"Georgia shot 38 percent in the second half," he said. "I'd like to say that's a result of our defense, but I don't think it was. But their lower shooting percentage was the difference in the game."

The Gators jumped out to an early 8-2 lead. Hodge and Lucas scored on a pair of fast break layups, and a Speights dunk had the Gators rolling. But the Bulldogs battled back behind the shooting of point guard Sundiata Gaines who finished with a game-high 32 points.

After Georgia evened the score at 10 on a jumper by Terrance Woodbury five minutes into the game, the two teams exchanged baskets for the next ten minutes. The Gators led most of the way, but their biggest lead was only five points following a 3-point shot from Lucas giving the Gators a 25-20 edge with 7:23 left in the first half.

But with three minutes remaining in the first half, Parsons heated up. The freshman hit a runner with the Gators trailing by a basket to tie the score at 30. He then knocked down a 3 and scored on a layup to extend Florida's lead to 35-30 with 1:50 remaining. Then with 33 seconds left, Parsons scored and was fouled, converting a three-point play. The Gators took a 43-36 lead into the locker room.

Georgia started the second half hot from the outside.

"They started the second half by hitting I think three 3-pointers in a row to get the lead down to one point," Donovan said. "But I thought our press in the second half may not have stopped them, but it was disruptive and created turnovers."

With 16:15 left, Georgia trailed 48-47, but Florida went on a 20-6 run, building a 68-53 lead with 8:20 left in the game. Half the scoring came from the bench with Adam Allen, Parsons and Jonathan Mitchell all contributing.

Both sides failed to hit a field goal during a four minute stretch late in the second half, allowing the Gators to preserve their lead. With less than four minutes left, Lucas hit a jumper and Hodge hit a reverse lay-up to give Florida a 17-point advantage, 73-56.

The Dawgs were able to cut the deficit to nine points with less than a minute to go, but they would never get any closer.

The win allowed Florida to keep pace with both Tennessee and Kentucky who also won today. The Gators host LSU on Wednesday night at the O'Connell Center.

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

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