Three Man Team No More

Last week I wrote about the problems facing the Gator basketball team because its top three scorers in SEC play (Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Alex Tyus) were combining for almost 70 percent of the team's points. That lack of balance in league play left the Gator susceptible in any game where one or more of the "big three" were struggling.

Saturday afternoon the Gators faced that exact situation as the trip combined to shot a dreadful 7-for-35 from the field against Mississippi State. But instead of that poor performance costing the Gators, it instead provided an opportunity for Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin to step up their games, and the two juniors responded. Macklin (20/6) produced his best game as a collegian against the nation's top shot blocker, Jarvis Varnado. Parsons chipped in with his third double-double (18/12) of the season giving the tandem 38 of Florida's 69 points in a seven-point win over the Bulldogs.

Macklin had scored in double figures just once in the five previous games, but he put in 10 straight Gator points early in the second half and remained an offensive threat throughout the contest. I asked Macklin about that sequence:

"All I can says is it was about trust. The trust the guards had in me that if I would get the ball I would deliver. So when they passed it to me they weren't worried that I would turn it over or take a bad shot. So it was all trust about what I can do for them."

Parsons was an on-court observer during Macklin's 10-point run, and even though we haven't seen it before, he insists he was not surprised by it.

"I see it every day. He's got a lot of talent. We weren't going to shy away from him (Varnado) just because they guy blocks shot. We just wanted to keep going into Vern, because we know he has skills and when Murph (Erik Murphy) was in there we were going into Murph too."

I asked the big guy if it was special for him and Parsons to deliver when the team really needed a pick me up on the offensive end.

"Yeah, it's real satisfying but we have to keep on doing this every single day."

Parsons feels pretty much the same way.

"You know everyone is going to have bad shooting nights. Those guys stepped up against Alabama and Vern and me stepped up tonight. They still helped us tonight. Even though their shots aren't falling that doesn't mean they can't affect the game many different ways."

After the game I asked Billy Donovan about the significance of the Gators being able to win a key SEC game when the guys who had been the most reliable in conference play all had off nights.

"I think it's huge for us and it's something that can really build inside a team. Here's a game where less than 36 hours ago Erving Walker made a shot to win a game and Kenny Boynton made a steal and made a couple of plays a knock(ed) down a shot. Now all of a sudden offensively they don't play well. (The question for them is) can you really enjoy and take pleasure out of your teammates stepping up and doing some of that."

Donovan said he knows the answer to that rhetorical question and it's one of the real strengths in this basketball team.

"The one thing I respect about all of the guys on the team is that they really want to win. They want to try and do the right things and while they're out there for the most part they have a pretty good ability that when things aren't going well (offensively) to get past it and realize there's a defensive end of the floor to play. I've been around a lot of guys that when there offense is not going you can't get a lot out of them. Boynton and Walker, although they didn't have their offense going those guys really still try to guard."


The Gators are now 17-6 (6-3) and next head to Columbia for a game with South Carolina Wednesday night. Carolina got clobbered by Tennessee Saturday, but gave the Gators fits in Gainesville and would have left the O'Dome with a win if not for a game-winning shot by Chandler Parsons.

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