Gators Pick Up Huge Win Over the Vols

Chandler Parsons and Erving Walker each scored 19 points to lead a quartet of Florida starters in double figures as the Gators picked up a huge win for their NCAA tournament resume with an impressive 75-62 decision over No. 17 Tennessee before 11,273 fans at the O'Connell Center and a national television (ESPN) audience Tuesday night.

Vernon Macklin followed up his career-high 22-point performance Saturday in a road win at Ole Miss with his second career double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, freshman guard Kenny Boynton added 12 points, and Alex Tyus had eight points and eight rebounds as UF (20-8, 9-4) took sole possession of third place in the SEC while ending a six-game losing streak to the Vols (20-7, 8-5).

"It definitely feels good, beating a team of that great a caliber and what they can do," said Parsons, who was 8-of-12 from the field and added eight rebounds to help the Gators to a solid 38-29 edge on the boards. "To beat a team like Tennessee is huge."

The Gators and Vols went into halftime all tied at 37, and the back-and-forth tempo continued through the first five minutes of the second half. But after 7-0 sophomore center Brian Williams scored off an offensive rebound with 14:36 remaining in the game to give the Vols a 44-43 lead and with Tennessee's leading scorer and rebounder, senior Wayne Chism, on the bench with four fouls, UF took control to outscore the Vols 21-4 over the next 10 minutes, capped by back-to-back treys from Walker, that gave UF a 64-48 lead with five minutes left. The lead grew to as many as 20, 70-50, with 3:06 remaining, after back-to-back treys by Walker and Parsons, although the Vols were able to trim the final margin to 13 with a couple of late 3s.

"I was on the break and I had time on all those shots to get my legs under me on all those shots," Walker said of his string of three straight 3-pointers. "I made sure I had my balance and followed through, so I just let them go." Scottie Hopson had 20 points for the Vols to lead all scorers, going 8-of-15 from the floor and 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. Cameron Tatum had 13 points and point guard Bobby Maze added 11, but Chism was held to seven points and one rebound as Florida's frontcourt dominated, outscoring the Vols in the paint 32-22.

"I think if you look at the series historically, the team that has scored the most points in the paint and won the battle of the inside has been the team that has won the game," said Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, who lost for just the second time to UF in 10 meetings. "Tonight, the combination of Parsons and Macklin, Werner, Murphy and Tyus were just too much for us. They had five guys that all kind of battled and won the battle of the boards, and that was a big difference.

"Wayne got in foul trouble and he did not play effectively. They did a good job against him, and we really didn't have another inside threat that could score or get fouled."

The victory gave UF its 12th straight 20-win season under head coach Billy Donovan.

"I thought the first half really shot the ball well from behind the 3-point line, but we closed the first half out pretty well, enough to at least tie the game,'' Donovan said. "Even though we didn't shoot the ball great from the 3-point line, at least we made a few. We made four in a row there in one stretch that really kind of blew the game open.

"I think the biggest thing is we built off the way we played defense against on Saturday against Mississippi. I thought we guarded very well tonight."

UF shot 50.9 percent from the field (27-of-53) and, thanks to making four straight 3s after going just 1-for-9 in the first half, the Gators ended up 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) from beyond the arc. The Vols on the other hand, made 6-of-16 in the first half, but made just one 3-pointer in the second half when the game was on the line before making three more in the last 2:39 to finish 10-of-23 (43.5 percent).

The Gators, who have won nine of their last 12 games, have three games left, starting with a road game at Georgia Saturday at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs may be in last place in the SEC East, but they are a different team at home, having already beaten Vanderbilt and Tennessee there this season.

Donovan said he isn't concerned about things like the conjecture of whether the Gators have stamped their ticket to the Big Dance or not.

"I don't have to think about things like that," he said. "All I know is the more games you win, the better your chances."


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