Gators Edge Past the Tide

Erving Walker's soft arching shot with 11 seconds left to play gave the Florida Gators a one-point lead, and Alex Tyus and Dan Werner both came up with key defensive plays in the closing moments as UF pulled off a big 66-65 SEC road win over Alabama Thursday night before 10,845 at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa.

Following Walker's eventual game-winner, Tyus rejected a shot by Alabama's Mikhail Torrance with 3.5 seconds remaining, with the ball going out of bounds. The Tide (13-9, 3-5) had one last chance, but Werner was able to deflect the inbounds pass and punch it down the floor, with the clock running out before 'Bama could get to it.

It was the second one-point game in a row for the Gators (16-6, 5-3), who lost 61-60 to No. 14 Tennessee Sunday. It also marked the eighth time this season UF has been involved in a game decided by five points or less. The Gators are 5-3 in those outcomes.

"We've had a lot of close games, and we were fortunate enough to win this one," head coach Billy Donovan said in a postgame radio interview with WRUF. "I've got a lot of confidence in Erving. He made a great play. He had lost control a couple of times and gotten stripped a couple of times, but you know what, he hung in there and made a big shot at the end."

Tyus continued his outstanding play of late, leading the Gators in points (19) and rebounds (seven). The 6-8 junior from St. Louis was 8-of-10 from the field in reaching double figures for the 13th straight game. He was joined in double figures by Walker (16 points) and freshman Kenny Boynton (15 points). Chandler Parsons had eight points and five rebounds and Vernon Macklin added six points.

Torrance, meanwhile, led all scorers with 22 points, as the 6-5 senior guard connected on 7-of-15 from the field including 5-of-11 from 3-point range, tying a career-high for made treys. Sophomore forward JaMychal Green, the only other Tide starter averaging in double figures, had 14 points and five rebounds while freshman Tony Mitchell added 10 points.

The first half was tight throughout, but the Tide was able to take a 37-33 lead into the locker room thanks to a 7-of-14 shooting effort from behind the arc. Alabama came into the game averaging five treys a game.

The Gators shot 50 percent from the field (27-of-54) for the game and were 7-of-18 from 3-point range. Florida, which leads the SEC in free throw shooting, only got to the foul line eight times, making five, while 'Bama was 12-of-18. The Gators did, however, win the rebounding battle with a solid 35-24 edge, including 13 offensive boards that led to a 21-6 advantage in second-chance points.

Donovan admitted that winning such a tight game was bittersweet with former long-time assistant Anthony Grant, Alabama's first-year head coach, on the opposite sideline.

"When you have a person as close to you as Anthony is and have been on the sideline with him for 10 years, you know the pain of losing he feels and it's not fun," he said. "But for us to come on the road and win like that, I was just happy with our guys resiliency and effort in coming off obviously a tough emotional game on Sunday at Tennessee."

UF has little time to celebrate as the Gators face a short turnaround before hosting Mississippi State in another key SEC tilt Saturday at 1:30 p.m.


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