Parsons delivers another miracle

There was no time to think, no time really to do anything except catch and shoot, which is exactly what Chandler Parsons did. If you go by the stats, maybe he’s not the guy you would want to launch a three-ball for the game winner, but when time is about to expire, the guy with the open look has to let it rip. So Parsons let it rip a fraction of a second before the clock struck zero and for the second time this month Chandler Parsons, shaky three-point shooter, became Chandler Parsons miracle man and the Florida Gators had themselves another improbable win.

Parsons’ first miracle shot traveled 70 feet to beat North Carolina State 62-61 three weeks ago in Florida’s first game after the new year. Saturday’s miracle was a 22-footer from the left wing that gave the Gators (14-5, 3-2 SEC East) a 58-56 win over South Carolina (11-8, 2-3 SEC East). Not bad for a guy who had never hit a game-winner ever.

“Two buzzer beaters in my life!” Parsons said.

And as sweet as that 70-footer was three weeks ago, there is probably no way it could match this one since it evened the score a bit for Parsons. A year ago in Columbia against South Carolina, Parsons had a chance to seal a win for the Gators at the foul line but he threw up a Scud that the Gamecocks rebounded and converted into a game-winning miracle at the other end of the floor.

This year, when given the opportunity to win the game, Parsons delivered.

“If he missed it just think how miserable he would be feeling right now,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

But there was no repeat of last year’s misery. Last year’s goat became this year’s hero.


“That’s just unbelievable,” Parsons said. “I keep asking myself how this is happening to me?”

The shot that beat North Carolina State was pure luck. There’s no way to plan or design a 70-footer shot in pure desperation that never draws iron. The shot that beat South Carolina wasn’t drawn up on the board but end of the game plays are something the Gators work on every day in practice.

They were fine-tuning what they do in the final 10 seconds at practice this past Wednesday only without the same result they got against South Carolina. Saturday night, they didn’t have 10 seconds to work with, either. The Gators had 5.1 seconds to get up a shot after Devan Downey had put up a miracle of his own by slicing through a double team and two other Florida defenders to put the Gamecocks ahead 56-55.

“I actually fouled him [Downey] on the play,” Parsons. “Lucky no call.”

And lucky that when the ball went through the hoop Dan Werner was there. Werner alertly grabbed the ball and got the ball inbounds to Erving Walker in the open court before South Carolina could get its defense set. The moment Walker got near the midcourt stripe, two Gamecock defenders converged on him but that left Parsons all alone on the wing. Walker zipped the ball over to Parsons who caught and went up for the shot all in one motion.

It worked like you would draw it up on the blackboard, but actually it was spontaneous and wouldn’t have worked if there had been a second less on the block to begin with or if Parsons had been alert enough to find an opening that would give him a clean look at the basket.

“We worked three days ago on situations with ten seconds to go and I kid you not Erving Walker — three times in a row — was pulling up and trying to take jump shots at the end of the clock,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I told him the worst thing you can do in that situation … you have to drive the ball to the basket. He did a great job of driving the ball and making the play. It was just a spontaneous play but I had talked to Erving about that in practice about that. If there was less time, if there was four seconds Erving probably would have had to shoot it.”

Walker might have been forced to take a shot from midcourt or beyond if not for Werner.

“I thought it was great awareness on Dan Werner’s part when he inbounded the ball as quickly as he did and I thought it was a great job by Erving Walker not panicking and understanding where the game clock was at in terms of him driving the ball forcing some help and then finding Chandler,” Donovan said. “I thought it was great awareness by our team in that situation.”

Parsons’ opportunity to shoot the game-winner might have never come about if not for freshman Kenny Boynton coming up big in the final five minutes when he scored eight of the 14 points he scored in the second half. Boynton didn’t have a great shooting game (5-13, 0-5 on three-pointers) but he became a scorer down the stretch and with 11 seconds left, showed just how cool he is under pressure.

Trailing, 54-52, with 20 seconds left after Devan Downey got open off a double pick in front of the South Carolina bench, the Gators beat the South Carolina pressure at midcourt and got the ball to Boynton on the left side. Boynton didn’t hesitate, went up for a three-pointer and though the shot didn’t drop, he was fouled by Ramon Galloway. Boynton stepped to the line and calmly dropped in all three shots to give the Gators the lead.

“The one thing that’s going to be lost in this game is the fact that a freshman walked up to the line and made three free throws with 11 seconds left in the game down by two,” Donovan said. “That says a lot about him as a player and his focus.”

It also says a lot about Boynton’s focus that he was able to bounce back from a scoreless first half to be Florida’s offensive catalyst in the final 20 minutes. Boynton wasn’t the only Gator who had problems scoring in the first half, however. Florida hit only 9-28 shots from the field and a very poor 2-12 from the three-point line.

South Carolina wasn’t shooting that much better, however. The Gamecocks were 9-27 from the field and 2-9 on threes and they would have been dead in the water without Downey, who got 14 of his game-high 36 points in the first half.

Both Downey and the Gators heated up in the second half. The Gators scored the first four points of the half to go up by six, the largest lead for either team the entire game. But each time the Gators got a little bit of momentum Downey shot the Gamecocks back into the game. No matter how many defenders the Gators threw at Downey, the 5-9 (actually closer to 5-7) senior found ways to manufacture points to keep South Carolina close.

It’s a good thing the game was basketball and not figure skating or diving because no extra points are awarded in basketball for degree of difficulty.

“We guarded really, really well,” Donovan said. “It’s just one guy [Downey] has an incredible ability to make very difficult shots. We gave him four three-point shots but one of them I’m not counting one of them because he didn’t call glass right in front of our bench.”

Downey was so good that Donovan doubled up on Downey on the inbounds play after Boynton hit the three free throws.

“I put Walker and Boynton on Downey and I told them you’re double teaming him,” Donovan said. “The other three guys have to play four guys. I was willing to live with somebody else making a shot.”

Instead he nearly had to live with Downey beating four of his guys because once he got past Walker and Boynton, Parsons and Alex Tyus both stepped in to help, all to no avail.

But all Downey did was open the door for another Chandler Parsons miracle. Parsons’ three-pointer won the game and set off an on the court celebration that saw him on the bottom of a team dogpile as the 12,094 who jammed in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center roared and kept on roaring for a full minute after the game was over.

Quite a contrast to last season when Parsons’ confidence was at an all-time low after he missed the free throws in Columbia.

“I’m the most blessed player in this country, I swear to God,” Parsons said.

GAME NOTES: Florida finished with four players in double figures. Boynton led with 14 while Walker had 13, Tyus 12 and Parsons had 10 … Parsons turned in his second straight double-double with 10 rebounds plus he finished with four assists … Walker hit 3-4 on three-pointers. He’s 19-31 (61.3 percent) on three-balls in SEC play. Walker also finished with more assists (seven) than the entire South Carolina team (four) … Florida finished the game shooting 38.2 percent from the field (21-55) and 6-22 (27.3 percent) from the three-point line … Downey scored 36 of South Carolina’s 56 points. He was 12-25 from the field while the rest of the team was 9-28 … The Gators return to action Wednesday night against Georgia (9-8, 1-3 SEC East), a 78-63 winner over eighth-ranked Tennessee Saturday.


At Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.

SOUTH CAROLINA (56)—Evaldas Baniulis 0-4 0-0 0, Devan Downey 12-25 8-9 36, Brandis Raley-Ross 2-5 0-0 5, Lakeem Jackson 0-3 0-0 0, Sam Muldrow 3-7 0-2 6, Ramon Galloway 2-6 0-0 4, Stephen Spinella 2-3 0-0 4, Johndre Jefferson 0-1 0-2 0, Austin Steed 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 21-55 8-13 56.

Field-goal shooting: 21 of 55 for 38.2 percent. 3-point shooting: 6 of 22 for 27.3 percent (Downey 5-11, Spinella 1-2, Raley-Ross 1-3, Baniulis 0-2, Galloway 0-4). Free-throw shooting: 8 of 13 for 61.5 percent. Rebounds: 34 (Muldrow 9, Raley-Ross 4, Jackson 4). Assists: 4 (Raley-Ross 2). Blocked shots: 5 (Muldrow 4). Steals: 6 (Raley-Ross 2). Turnovers: 7 (Downey 2). Total fouls (fouled out): 15 (none).

FLORIDA (58)—Kenny Boynton 5-13 4-4 14, Chandler Parsons 4-10 1-2 10, Erving Walker 4-9 2-2 13, Alex Tyus 6-10 0-0 12, Vernon Macklin 2-5 3-5 7, Ray Shipman 0-2 0-0 0, Dan Werner 1-4 0-0 2, Erik Murphy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-53 10-13 58.

Field-goal shooting: 22 of 53 for 41.5 percent. 3-point shooting: 4-15 for 26.7 percent (Walker 3-4, Parsons 1-4, Shipman 0-1, Werner 0-1, Boynton 0-5). Free-throw shooting: 10 of 13 for 76.9 percent. Rebounds: 36 (Parsons 10, Tyus 9, Werner 7). Assists: 14 (Walker 7, Parsons 4). Blocked shots: 1 (Macklin). Steals: 4 (Boynton 2). Turnovers: 10 (Walker 4). Total fouls (fouled out): 11 (none).

Halftime: South Carolina 25, Florida 25. Officials: Doug Shows, Mike Nance, Mike Thibodeaux. Attendance: 12,094. Records: South Carolina 11-9, 2-4 SEC East; Florida 15-5, 4-2 SEC East.


For the latest standings, click below:

Saturday, Jan. 23

Florida 58, South Carolina 56

No. 2 Kentucky 101, Arkansas 70

Georgia 78, No. 8 Tennessee 63

No. 24 Mississippi 73, Louisiana State 63

Alabama 62, Mississippi State 57

Vanderbilt 82, Auburn 74

Tuesday, Jan. 26

Kentucky at South Carolina, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Wednesday, Jan. 27

Georgia at Florida, 7 p.m. (CSS)

Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Louisiana State at Alabama, 8 p.m. (SEC Network)

Thursday, Jan. 28

Mississippi at Auburn, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Mississippi State at Arkansas, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

Saturday, Jan. 30

Louisiana State at Mississippi State, 1:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

Alabama at Auburn, 4 p.m. (SEC Network)

Arkansas at Mississippi, 4 p.m. (SEC Network)

Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

Georgia at South Carolina, 7 p.m. (FSN)

Sunday, Jan. 31

Florida at Tennessee, 1 p.m. (CBS)

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.