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The tough guys wore orange and blue

Written by Franz Beard, February 24, 2010, 0 Comments,
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The feeding frenzy that turned Tuesday night’s Southeastern Conference showdown with the 19th-ranked Tennessee Vols into an old-fashioned woodshed beating began with a tough-guy rebound by Dan Werner. The Vols’ Steven Pearl drove in for a layup with 5:37 remaining in the game but the ball clanged off the bottom of the rim. Pearl was in position to grab his own rebound but Werner literally ripped the ball out of his hands and then alertly fired upcourt to Erving Walker, who had leaked out ahead of the pack. Walker pulled up on the right wing and let loose with a laser-guided three-ball that put the Gators out front, 61-47, and turned the O-Dome into the Deaf Dome.

Over the next 2:28, Walker bombed in two more threes and for good measure, Chandler Parsons dropped in a fourth straight three-pointer that put the exclamation point on a 12-3 run that took the Gators from a 58-47 lead that had the O-Dome crowd hoping the Gators could hang on and win into a 70-50 lead that got the celebration party started early. 

As much a shock as Florida’s 75-62 win that ended Tennessee’s six-game win streak over the Gators must been, that run of four three-balls in a row was even more surprising. In their previous five games, the Gators were 15-72 from the three-point line and they were 1-11 when Walker got the first of his three straight threes.

“We made one three-point shot in the first half and I think that was a banked three-point shot by Kenny Boynton,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators (20-8, 9-4 SEC) took over sole possession of third place in the SEC East and extended their mark of 12 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, the best streak in the Southeastern Conference. “We got in that stretch where Walker made three in a row and then Chandler made one and the next thing you know it was bang, bang, bang and in two minutes it was blown open.”

Hitting those shots certainly turned the game into a blowout that nearly blew the roof off the O-Dome the way the crowd reacted, but even before three shots dropped, the Gators had taken care of business by playing tougher and more physical than the Vols, who were taller, stronger, quicker and deeper. In running off a six-game winning streak over the Gators, Tennessee typically intimidated the Gators with their aggressiveness and muscle.

Tuesday night, the tough, physical team wore orange and blue. It was enough for Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to take notice.

“What has been a non-strength for Florida the last couple of years has turned into a real strength for them,” Pearl said after the Vols dropped to 20-7 on the season and 8-5, a game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Florida’s toughness showed on the inside where the Gators front line of Vernon Macklin (13 points, 10 rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal), Alex Tyus (eight points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot) and Parsons (19 points, eight rebounds, one steal) dominated the Vols and got Tennessee big men Wayne Chism (6-9, 250) and Brian Williams (6-11, 270) into early foul trouble. Chism managed just seven points and one rebound before he fouled out. Williams got four points and seven rebounds while collecting four fouls.

All the hustle plays favored the Gators, who won the rebounding battle, 41-33, including a 12-10 margin on the offensive boards. The Gators outscored the Vols 32-22 in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers and 11-10 on second chance points.

The combination of Florida’s toughness and physical nature on the inside and some early success from the three-point line got the Vols enamored with their long distance game. The Vols had a hot stretch of their own from beyond the arc, hitting three in a row and 4-5 as they went from a 13-6 early deficit to a 35-27 lead on a three-ball by Bobby Maze with 5:19 left in the half.

Florida got its only three-pointer of the half when Boynton banked in his three from the top of the key with 4:46 left and after a Melvin Goins tip-in with 3:44 left gave the Vols a 37-30 lead, the Gators scored the last seven points, tying the game at 37-37 when Alex Tyus scored on a short jumper off a Walker pass with 13 seconds left.

What really got the Gators back into the game was a bit of what Donovan called “smoke and mirrors.” In the final five minutes of the first half, Donovan would show the Vols man-to-man defense the first 20 seconds of the shot block, then they would switch back to a zone.

“They’re a team that’s patterned and he [Pearl] was constantly calling plays from the sideline so they’ll run some action and look at some different things early in their offense and then when the shot clock gets to 10-15 seconds he generally yells out a play and they come in with a quick-hitting play and they put you in a bind,” Donovan said. “Because the defense was in front of me, we went from man to zone in the middle of possessions and I thought defensively that shifted us into a position where we were able to get some stops and get into a break.”

It shifted the Gators in position to get stops because the Vols had serious recognition problems, one so confusing that the Vols got a 35-second shot clock violation with 2:03 left in the half.

“Florida went man to zone and a lot of times and changed defenses effectively and that got us into some shot clock situations late,” Pearl said.

When the Gators came out to start the second half, they went to work on the Vols on the inside. Of Florida’s first 15 points in the second half, 12 came in the paint from Parsons (two on a driving layup), Tyus (six including two from the foul line) and Macklin (four including two on a tip-in). The Vols kept firing away from the three-point line but they cooled off and though nobody was hitting anything from the outside, there was no urgency to test the Gators on the inside.

“I was concerned with their physicality coming into the game and they were superior on the inside,” Pearl said.

Florida got some early help in the second half when Chism picked up two quick fouls — his third and fourth — that set him down from 16:01 until he returned with 7:31 left. When he got back in the game, the Gators were ahead 56-47 and about ready to explode offensively.

Chism picked up his fifth foul with 4:02 left in the half and the Gators about to finish off their three-point frenzy with long balls from Walker and Parsons.

Winning with great defense has been part of the Florida formula all season. The Gators have had to play defense because the shots just haven’t fallen. For a change, Tuesday night the shots fell. Florida finished 27-53 from the field (50.9 percent) and by hitting their final four threes, they finished a respectable 35.7 percent (5-14) from beyond the arc.

“I think it was a building block off of the Mississippi game [last Saturday],” Donovan said. “We were so awful shooting the basketball in the game [against Ole Miss]. We were 1-13 from the three-point line. We shot 37 percent from the field. On the road that’s normally a formula for disaster and usually you have no chance to win the game but we found a way to win by three points.”

Tuesday night, the Gators hit some shots so they didn’t have to find a way to pull out a white knuckler at the end. A 13-point win is what happens when a tough team gets some shots to fall.

The Gators proved themselves the tougher of the two teams Tuesday night. It was enough to leave Pearl questioning his team’s toughness by asking out loud, “

Over the next 2:28, Walker bombed in two more threes and for good measure, Chandler Parsons dropped in a fourth straight three-pointer that put the exclamation point on a 12-3 run that took the Gators from a 58-47 lead that had the O-Dome crowd hoping the Gators could hang on and win a 70-50 lead that got the celebration party started early. 

As much a shock as Florida’s 75-62 win that ended Tennessee’s six-game win streak over the Gators must been, that run of four three-balls in a row was even more surprising. In their previous five games, the Gators were 15-72 from the three-point line and they were 1-11 when Walker got the first of his three straight threes.

“We made one three-point shot in the first half and I think that was a banked three-point shot by Kenny Boynton,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators (20-8, 9-4 SEC) took over sole possession of third place in the SEC East and extended their mark of 12 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, the best streak in the Southeastern Conference. “We got in that stretch where Walker made three in a row and then Chandler made one and the next thing you know it was bang, bang, bang and in two minutes it was blown open.”

Hitting those shots certainly turned the game into a blowout that nearly blew the roof off the O-Dome the way the crowd reacted, but even before three shots dropped, the Gators had taken care of business by playing tougher and more physical than the Vols, who were taller, stronger, quicker and deeper. In running off a five-game winning streak over the Gators, Tennessee typically intimidated the Gators with their aggressiveness and muscle.

Tuesday night, the tough, physical team wore orange and blue. It was enough for Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to take notice.

“What has been a non-strength for Florida the last couple of years has turned into a real strength for them,” Pearl said after the Vols dropped to 20-7 on the season and 8-5, a game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Florida’s toughness showed on the inside where the Gators front line of Vernon Macklin (13 points, 10 rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal), Alex Tyus (eight points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot) and Parsons (19 points, eight rebounds, one steal) dominated the Vols and got Tennessee big men Wayne Chism (6-9, 250) and Brian Williams (6-11, 270) into early foul trouble. Chism managed just seven points and one rebound before he fouled out. Williams got four points and seven rebounds while collecting four fouls.

All the hustle plays favored the Gators, who won the rebounding battle, 41-33, including a 12-10 margin on the offensive boards. The Gators outscored the Vols 32-22 in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers and 11-10 on second chance points.

The combination of Florida’s toughness and physical nature on the inside and some early success from the three-point line got the Vols enamored with their long distance game. The Vols had a hot stretch of their own from beyond the arc, hitting three in a row and 4-5 as they went from a 13-6 early deficit to a 35-27 lead on a three-ball by Bobby Maze with 5:19 left in the half.

Florida got its only three-pointer of the half when Boynton banked in his three from the top of the key with 4:46 left and after a Melvin Goins tip-in with 3:44 left gave the Vols a 37-30 lead, the Gators scored the last seven points, tying the game at 37-37 when Alex Tyus scored on a short jumper off a Walker pass with 13 seconds left.

What really got the Gators back into the game was a bit of what Donovan called “smoke and mirrors.” In the final five minutes of the first half, Donovan would show the Vols man-to-man defense the first 20 seconds of the shot block, then they would switch back to a zone.

“They’re a team that’s patterned and he [Pearl] was constantly calling plays from the sideline so they’ll run some action and look at some different things early in their offense and then when the shot clock gets to 10-15 seconds he generally yells out a play and they come in with a quick-hitting play and they put you in a bind,” Donovan said. “Because the defense was in front of me, we went from man to zone in the middle of possessions and I thought defensively that shifted us into a position where we were able to get some stops and get into a break.”

It shifted the Gators in position to get stops because the Vols had serious recognition problems, one so confusing that the Vols got a 35-second shot clock violation with 2:03 left in the half.

“Florida went man to zone and a lot of times and changed defenses effectively and that got us into some shot clock situations late,” Pearl said.

When the Gators came out to start the second half, they went to work on the Vols on the inside. Of Florida’s first 15 points in the second half, 12 came in the paint from Parsons (two on a driving layup), Tyus (six including two from the foul line) and Macklin (four including two on a tip-in). The Vols kept firing away from the three-point line but they cooled off and though nobody was hitting anything from the outside, there was no urgency to test the Gators on the inside.

“I was concerned with their physicality coming into the game and they were superior on the inside,” Pearl said.

Florida got some early help in the second half when Chism picked up two quick fouls — his third and fourth — that set him down from 16:01 until he returned with 7:31 left. When he got back in the game, the Gators were ahead 56-47 and about ready to explode offensively.

Chism picked up his fifth foul with 4:02 left in the half and the Gators about to finish off their three-point frenzy with long balls from Walker and Parsons.

Winning with great defense has been part of the Florida formula all season. The Gators have had to play defense because the shots just haven’t fallen. For a change, Tuesday night the shots fell. Florida finished 27-53 from the field (50.9 percent) and by hitting their final four threes, they finished a respectable 35.7 percent (5-14) from beyond the arc.

“I think it was a building block off of the Mississippi game [last Saturday],” Donovan said. “We were so awful shooting the basketball in the game [against Ole Miss]. We were 1-13 from the three-point line. We shot 37 percent from the field. On the road that’s normally a formula for disaster and usually you have no chance to win the game but we found a way to win by three points.”

Tuesday night, the Gators hit some shots so they didn’t have to find a way to pull out a white knuckler at the end.

Over the next 2:28, Walker bombed in two more threes and for good measure, Chandler Parsons dropped in a fourth straight three-pointer that put the exclamation point on a 12-3 run that took the Gators from a 58-47 lead that had the O-Dome crowd hoping the Gators could hang on and win a 70-50 lead that got the celebration party started early. 

As much a shock as Florida’s 75-62 win that ended Tennessee’s six-game win streak over the Gators must been, that run of four three-balls in a row was even more surprising. In their previous five games, the Gators were 15-72 from the three-point line and they were 1-11 when Walker got the first of his three straight threes.

“We made one three-point shot in the first half and I think that was a banked three-point shot by Kenny Boynton,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators (20-8, 9-4 SEC) took over sole possession of third place in the SEC East and extended their mark of 12 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, the best streak in the Southeastern Conference. “We got in that stretch where Walker made three in a row and then Chandler made one and the next thing you know it was bang, bang, bang and in two minutes it was blown open.”

Hitting those shots certainly turned the game into a blowout that nearly blew the roof off the O-Dome the way the crowd reacted, but even before three shots dropped, the Gators had taken care of business by playing tougher and more physical than the Vols, who were taller, stronger, quicker and deeper. In running off a five-game winning streak over the Gators, Tennessee typically intimidated the Gators with their aggressiveness and muscle.

Tuesday night, the tough, physical team wore orange and blue. It was enough for Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to take notice.

“What has been a non-strength for Florida the last couple of years has turned into a real strength for them,” Pearl said after the Vols dropped to 20-7 on the season and 8-5, a game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Florida’s toughness showed on the inside where the Gators front line of Vernon Macklin (13 points, 10 rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal), Alex Tyus (eight points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot) and Parsons (19 points, eight rebounds, one steal) dominated the Vols and got Tennessee big men Wayne Chism (6-9, 250) and Brian Williams (6-11, 270) into early foul trouble. Chism managed just seven points and one rebound before he fouled out. Williams got four points and seven rebounds while collecting four fouls.

All the hustle plays favored the Gators, who won the rebounding battle, 41-33, including a 12-10 margin on the offensive boards. The Gators outscored the Vols 32-22 in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers and 11-10 on second chance points.

The combination of Florida’s toughness and physical nature on the inside and some early success from the three-point line got the Vols enamored with their long distance game. The Vols had a hot stretch of their own from beyond the arc, hitting three in a row and 4-5 as they went from a 13-6 early deficit to a 35-27 lead on a three-ball by Bobby Maze with 5:19 left in the half.

Florida got its only three-pointer of the half when Boynton banked in his three from the top of the key with 4:46 left and after a Melvin Goins tip-in with 3:44 left gave the Vols a 37-30 lead, the Gators scored the last seven points, tying the game at 37-37 when Alex Tyus scored on a short jumper off a Walker pass with 13 seconds left.

What really got the Gators back into the game was a bit of what Donovan called “smoke and mirrors.” In the final five minutes of the first half, Donovan would show the Vols man-to-man defense the first 20 seconds of the shot block, then they would switch back to a zone.

“They’re a team that’s patterned and he [Pearl] was constantly calling plays from the sideline so they’ll run some action and look at some different things early in their offense and then when the shot clock gets to 10-15 seconds he generally yells out a play and they come in with a quick-hitting play and they put you in a bind,” Donovan said. “Because the defense was in front of me, we went from man to zone in the middle of possessions and I thought defensively that shifted us into a position where we were able to get some stops and get into a break.”

It shifted the Gators in position to get stops because the Vols had serious recognition problems, one so confusing that the Vols got a 35-second shot clock violation with 2:03 left in the half.

“Florida went man to zone and a lot of times and changed defenses effectively and that got us into some shot clock situations late,” Pearl said.

When the Gators came out to start the second half, they went to work on the Vols on the inside. Of Florida’s first 15 points in the second half, 12 came in the paint from Parsons (two on a driving layup), Tyus (six including two from the foul line) and Macklin (four including two on a tip-in). The Vols kept firing away from the three-point line but they cooled off and though nobody was hitting anything from the outside, there was no urgency to test the Gators on the inside.

“I was concerned with their physicality coming into the game and they were superior on the inside,” Pearl said.

Florida got some early help in the second half when Chism picked up two quick fouls — his third and fourth — that set him down from 16:01 until he returned with 7:31 left. When he got back in the game, the Gators were ahead 56-47 and about ready to explode offensively.

Chism picked up his fifth foul with 4:02 left in the half and the Gators about to finish off their three-point frenzy with long balls from Walker and Parsons.

Winning with great defense has been part of the Florida formula all season. The Gators have had to play defense because the shots just haven’t fallen. For a change, Tuesday night the shots fell. Florida finished 27-53 from the field (50.9 percent) and by hitting their final four threes, they finished a respectable 35.7 percent (5-14) from beyond the arc.

“I think it was a building block off of the Mississippi game [last Saturday],” Donovan said. “We were so awful shooting the basketball in the game [against Ole Miss]. We were 1-13 from the three-point line. We shot 37 percent from the field. On the road that’s normally a formula for disaster and usually you have no chance to win the game but we found a way to win by three points.”

Tuesday night, the Gators hit some shots so they didn’t have to find a way to pull out a white knuckler at the end but there was no question they were the tougher of the two teams on the floor.

That the Gators were tough and the Vols weren’t had Pearl questioning his team’s toughness, asking out loud, “Who’s tough enough to get to the rim and get to the foul line?”

The Vols weren’t but the Gators certainly were.

GAME NOTES: Parsons and Walker led the Gators with 19 points each. It was the sixth straight game in double figures for Parsons, who has scored 95 points and pulled down 53 rebounds in that stretch … Macklin came in with the second double-double of his Florida career (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Boynton finished with 12 points … Tennessee closed the game on a 3-4 run from the three-point line to finish the game 10-23. Prior to that mini-run the Vols went through a 1-8 stretch against Florida’s defense … The Gators travel to Georgia Saturday and return home next Tuesday to face Vanderbilt before finishing the regular season against Kentucky at Rupp Arena on senior day in Lexington.

Franz Beard

About 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.

Franz Beard Basketball
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The feeding frenzy that turned Tuesday night’s Southeastern Conference showdown with the 19th-ranked Tennessee Vols into an old-fashioned woodshed beating began with a tough-guy rebound by Dan Werner. The Vols’ Steven Pearl drove in for a layup with 5:37 remaining in the game but the ball clanged off the bottom of the rim. Pearl was in position to grab his own rebound but Werner literally ripped the ball out of his hands and then alertly fired upcourt to Erving Walker, who had leaked out ahead of the pack. Walker pulled up on the right wing and let loose with a laser-guided three-ball that put the Gators out front, 61-47, and turned the O-Dome into the Deaf Dome.

Over the next 2:28, Walker bombed in two more threes and for good measure, Chandler Parsons dropped in a fourth straight three-pointer that put the exclamation point on a 12-3 run that took the Gators from a 58-47 lead that had the O-Dome crowd hoping the Gators could hang on and win into a 70-50 lead that got the celebration party started early. 

As much a shock as Florida’s 75-62 win that ended Tennessee’s six-game win streak over the Gators must been, that run of four three-balls in a row was even more surprising. In their previous five games, the Gators were 15-72 from the three-point line and they were 1-11 when Walker got the first of his three straight threes.

“We made one three-point shot in the first half and I think that was a banked three-point shot by Kenny Boynton,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators (20-8, 9-4 SEC) took over sole possession of third place in the SEC East and extended their mark of 12 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, the best streak in the Southeastern Conference. “We got in that stretch where Walker made three in a row and then Chandler made one and the next thing you know it was bang, bang, bang and in two minutes it was blown open.”

Hitting those shots certainly turned the game into a blowout that nearly blew the roof off the O-Dome the way the crowd reacted, but even before three shots dropped, the Gators had taken care of business by playing tougher and more physical than the Vols, who were taller, stronger, quicker and deeper. In running off a six-game winning streak over the Gators, Tennessee typically intimidated the Gators with their aggressiveness and muscle.

Tuesday night, the tough, physical team wore orange and blue. It was enough for Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to take notice.

“What has been a non-strength for Florida the last couple of years has turned into a real strength for them,” Pearl said after the Vols dropped to 20-7 on the season and 8-5, a game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Florida’s toughness showed on the inside where the Gators front line of Vernon Macklin (13 points, 10 rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal), Alex Tyus (eight points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot) and Parsons (19 points, eight rebounds, one steal) dominated the Vols and got Tennessee big men Wayne Chism (6-9, 250) and Brian Williams (6-11, 270) into early foul trouble. Chism managed just seven points and one rebound before he fouled out. Williams got four points and seven rebounds while collecting four fouls.

All the hustle plays favored the Gators, who won the rebounding battle, 41-33, including a 12-10 margin on the offensive boards. The Gators outscored the Vols 32-22 in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers and 11-10 on second chance points.

The combination of Florida’s toughness and physical nature on the inside and some early success from the three-point line got the Vols enamored with their long distance game. The Vols had a hot stretch of their own from beyond the arc, hitting three in a row and 4-5 as they went from a 13-6 early deficit to a 35-27 lead on a three-ball by Bobby Maze with 5:19 left in the half.

Florida got its only three-pointer of the half when Boynton banked in his three from the top of the key with 4:46 left and after a Melvin Goins tip-in with 3:44 left gave the Vols a 37-30 lead, the Gators scored the last seven points, tying the game at 37-37 when Alex Tyus scored on a short jumper off a Walker pass with 13 seconds left.

What really got the Gators back into the game was a bit of what Donovan called “smoke and mirrors.” In the final five minutes of the first half, Donovan would show the Vols man-to-man defense the first 20 seconds of the shot block, then they would switch back to a zone.

“They’re a team that’s patterned and he [Pearl] was constantly calling plays from the sideline so they’ll run some action and look at some different things early in their offense and then when the shot clock gets to 10-15 seconds he generally yells out a play and they come in with a quick-hitting play and they put you in a bind,” Donovan said. “Because the defense was in front of me, we went from man to zone in the middle of possessions and I thought defensively that shifted us into a position where we were able to get some stops and get into a break.”

It shifted the Gators in position to get stops because the Vols had serious recognition problems, one so confusing that the Vols got a 35-second shot clock violation with 2:03 left in the half.

“Florida went man to zone and a lot of times and changed defenses effectively and that got us into some shot clock situations late,” Pearl said.

When the Gators came out to start the second half, they went to work on the Vols on the inside. Of Florida’s first 15 points in the second half, 12 came in the paint from Parsons (two on a driving layup), Tyus (six including two from the foul line) and Macklin (four including two on a tip-in). The Vols kept firing away from the three-point line but they cooled off and though nobody was hitting anything from the outside, there was no urgency to test the Gators on the inside.

“I was concerned with their physicality coming into the game and they were superior on the inside,” Pearl said.

Florida got some early help in the second half when Chism picked up two quick fouls — his third and fourth — that set him down from 16:01 until he returned with 7:31 left. When he got back in the game, the Gators were ahead 56-47 and about ready to explode offensively.

Chism picked up his fifth foul with 4:02 left in the half and the Gators about to finish off their three-point frenzy with long balls from Walker and Parsons.

Winning with great defense has been part of the Florida formula all season. The Gators have had to play defense because the shots just haven’t fallen. For a change, Tuesday night the shots fell. Florida finished 27-53 from the field (50.9 percent) and by hitting their final four threes, they finished a respectable 35.7 percent (5-14) from beyond the arc.

“I think it was a building block off of the Mississippi game [last Saturday],” Donovan said. “We were so awful shooting the basketball in the game [against Ole Miss]. We were 1-13 from the three-point line. We shot 37 percent from the field. On the road that’s normally a formula for disaster and usually you have no chance to win the game but we found a way to win by three points.”

Tuesday night, the Gators hit some shots so they didn’t have to find a way to pull out a white knuckler at the end. A 13-point win is what happens when a tough team gets some shots to fall.

The Gators proved themselves the tougher of the two teams Tuesday night. It was enough to leave Pearl questioning his team’s toughness by asking out loud, “

Over the next 2:28, Walker bombed in two more threes and for good measure, Chandler Parsons dropped in a fourth straight three-pointer that put the exclamation point on a 12-3 run that took the Gators from a 58-47 lead that had the O-Dome crowd hoping the Gators could hang on and win a 70-50 lead that got the celebration party started early. 

As much a shock as Florida’s 75-62 win that ended Tennessee’s six-game win streak over the Gators must been, that run of four three-balls in a row was even more surprising. In their previous five games, the Gators were 15-72 from the three-point line and they were 1-11 when Walker got the first of his three straight threes.

“We made one three-point shot in the first half and I think that was a banked three-point shot by Kenny Boynton,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators (20-8, 9-4 SEC) took over sole possession of third place in the SEC East and extended their mark of 12 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, the best streak in the Southeastern Conference. “We got in that stretch where Walker made three in a row and then Chandler made one and the next thing you know it was bang, bang, bang and in two minutes it was blown open.”

Hitting those shots certainly turned the game into a blowout that nearly blew the roof off the O-Dome the way the crowd reacted, but even before three shots dropped, the Gators had taken care of business by playing tougher and more physical than the Vols, who were taller, stronger, quicker and deeper. In running off a five-game winning streak over the Gators, Tennessee typically intimidated the Gators with their aggressiveness and muscle.

Tuesday night, the tough, physical team wore orange and blue. It was enough for Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to take notice.

“What has been a non-strength for Florida the last couple of years has turned into a real strength for them,” Pearl said after the Vols dropped to 20-7 on the season and 8-5, a game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Florida’s toughness showed on the inside where the Gators front line of Vernon Macklin (13 points, 10 rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal), Alex Tyus (eight points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot) and Parsons (19 points, eight rebounds, one steal) dominated the Vols and got Tennessee big men Wayne Chism (6-9, 250) and Brian Williams (6-11, 270) into early foul trouble. Chism managed just seven points and one rebound before he fouled out. Williams got four points and seven rebounds while collecting four fouls.

All the hustle plays favored the Gators, who won the rebounding battle, 41-33, including a 12-10 margin on the offensive boards. The Gators outscored the Vols 32-22 in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers and 11-10 on second chance points.

The combination of Florida’s toughness and physical nature on the inside and some early success from the three-point line got the Vols enamored with their long distance game. The Vols had a hot stretch of their own from beyond the arc, hitting three in a row and 4-5 as they went from a 13-6 early deficit to a 35-27 lead on a three-ball by Bobby Maze with 5:19 left in the half.

Florida got its only three-pointer of the half when Boynton banked in his three from the top of the key with 4:46 left and after a Melvin Goins tip-in with 3:44 left gave the Vols a 37-30 lead, the Gators scored the last seven points, tying the game at 37-37 when Alex Tyus scored on a short jumper off a Walker pass with 13 seconds left.

What really got the Gators back into the game was a bit of what Donovan called “smoke and mirrors.” In the final five minutes of the first half, Donovan would show the Vols man-to-man defense the first 20 seconds of the shot block, then they would switch back to a zone.

“They’re a team that’s patterned and he [Pearl] was constantly calling plays from the sideline so they’ll run some action and look at some different things early in their offense and then when the shot clock gets to 10-15 seconds he generally yells out a play and they come in with a quick-hitting play and they put you in a bind,” Donovan said. “Because the defense was in front of me, we went from man to zone in the middle of possessions and I thought defensively that shifted us into a position where we were able to get some stops and get into a break.”

It shifted the Gators in position to get stops because the Vols had serious recognition problems, one so confusing that the Vols got a 35-second shot clock violation with 2:03 left in the half.

“Florida went man to zone and a lot of times and changed defenses effectively and that got us into some shot clock situations late,” Pearl said.

When the Gators came out to start the second half, they went to work on the Vols on the inside. Of Florida’s first 15 points in the second half, 12 came in the paint from Parsons (two on a driving layup), Tyus (six including two from the foul line) and Macklin (four including two on a tip-in). The Vols kept firing away from the three-point line but they cooled off and though nobody was hitting anything from the outside, there was no urgency to test the Gators on the inside.

“I was concerned with their physicality coming into the game and they were superior on the inside,” Pearl said.

Florida got some early help in the second half when Chism picked up two quick fouls — his third and fourth — that set him down from 16:01 until he returned with 7:31 left. When he got back in the game, the Gators were ahead 56-47 and about ready to explode offensively.

Chism picked up his fifth foul with 4:02 left in the half and the Gators about to finish off their three-point frenzy with long balls from Walker and Parsons.

Winning with great defense has been part of the Florida formula all season. The Gators have had to play defense because the shots just haven’t fallen. For a change, Tuesday night the shots fell. Florida finished 27-53 from the field (50.9 percent) and by hitting their final four threes, they finished a respectable 35.7 percent (5-14) from beyond the arc.

“I think it was a building block off of the Mississippi game [last Saturday],” Donovan said. “We were so awful shooting the basketball in the game [against Ole Miss]. We were 1-13 from the three-point line. We shot 37 percent from the field. On the road that’s normally a formula for disaster and usually you have no chance to win the game but we found a way to win by three points.”

Tuesday night, the Gators hit some shots so they didn’t have to find a way to pull out a white knuckler at the end.

Over the next 2:28, Walker bombed in two more threes and for good measure, Chandler Parsons dropped in a fourth straight three-pointer that put the exclamation point on a 12-3 run that took the Gators from a 58-47 lead that had the O-Dome crowd hoping the Gators could hang on and win a 70-50 lead that got the celebration party started early. 

As much a shock as Florida’s 75-62 win that ended Tennessee’s six-game win streak over the Gators must been, that run of four three-balls in a row was even more surprising. In their previous five games, the Gators were 15-72 from the three-point line and they were 1-11 when Walker got the first of his three straight threes.

“We made one three-point shot in the first half and I think that was a banked three-point shot by Kenny Boynton,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said after the Gators (20-8, 9-4 SEC) took over sole possession of third place in the SEC East and extended their mark of 12 straight seasons of at least 20 wins, the best streak in the Southeastern Conference. “We got in that stretch where Walker made three in a row and then Chandler made one and the next thing you know it was bang, bang, bang and in two minutes it was blown open.”

Hitting those shots certainly turned the game into a blowout that nearly blew the roof off the O-Dome the way the crowd reacted, but even before three shots dropped, the Gators had taken care of business by playing tougher and more physical than the Vols, who were taller, stronger, quicker and deeper. In running off a five-game winning streak over the Gators, Tennessee typically intimidated the Gators with their aggressiveness and muscle.

Tuesday night, the tough, physical team wore orange and blue. It was enough for Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to take notice.

“What has been a non-strength for Florida the last couple of years has turned into a real strength for them,” Pearl said after the Vols dropped to 20-7 on the season and 8-5, a game behind the Gators in the SEC East.

Florida’s toughness showed on the inside where the Gators front line of Vernon Macklin (13 points, 10 rebounds, one blocked shot, one steal), Alex Tyus (eight points, eight rebounds, one blocked shot) and Parsons (19 points, eight rebounds, one steal) dominated the Vols and got Tennessee big men Wayne Chism (6-9, 250) and Brian Williams (6-11, 270) into early foul trouble. Chism managed just seven points and one rebound before he fouled out. Williams got four points and seven rebounds while collecting four fouls.

All the hustle plays favored the Gators, who won the rebounding battle, 41-33, including a 12-10 margin on the offensive boards. The Gators outscored the Vols 32-22 in the paint, 15-10 off turnovers and 11-10 on second chance points.

The combination of Florida’s toughness and physical nature on the inside and some early success from the three-point line got the Vols enamored with their long distance game. The Vols had a hot stretch of their own from beyond the arc, hitting three in a row and 4-5 as they went from a 13-6 early deficit to a 35-27 lead on a three-ball by Bobby Maze with 5:19 left in the half.

Florida got its only three-pointer of the half when Boynton banked in his three from the top of the key with 4:46 left and after a Melvin Goins tip-in with 3:44 left gave the Vols a 37-30 lead, the Gators scored the last seven points, tying the game at 37-37 when Alex Tyus scored on a short jumper off a Walker pass with 13 seconds left.

What really got the Gators back into the game was a bit of what Donovan called “smoke and mirrors.” In the final five minutes of the first half, Donovan would show the Vols man-to-man defense the first 20 seconds of the shot block, then they would switch back to a zone.

“They’re a team that’s patterned and he [Pearl] was constantly calling plays from the sideline so they’ll run some action and look at some different things early in their offense and then when the shot clock gets to 10-15 seconds he generally yells out a play and they come in with a quick-hitting play and they put you in a bind,” Donovan said. “Because the defense was in front of me, we went from man to zone in the middle of possessions and I thought defensively that shifted us into a position where we were able to get some stops and get into a break.”

It shifted the Gators in position to get stops because the Vols had serious recognition problems, one so confusing that the Vols got a 35-second shot clock violation with 2:03 left in the half.

“Florida went man to zone and a lot of times and changed defenses effectively and that got us into some shot clock situations late,” Pearl said.

When the Gators came out to start the second half, they went to work on the Vols on the inside. Of Florida’s first 15 points in the second half, 12 came in the paint from Parsons (two on a driving layup), Tyus (six including two from the foul line) and Macklin (four including two on a tip-in). The Vols kept firing away from the three-point line but they cooled off and though nobody was hitting anything from the outside, there was no urgency to test the Gators on the inside.

“I was concerned with their physicality coming into the game and they were superior on the inside,” Pearl said.

Florida got some early help in the second half when Chism picked up two quick fouls — his third and fourth — that set him down from 16:01 until he returned with 7:31 left. When he got back in the game, the Gators were ahead 56-47 and about ready to explode offensively.

Chism picked up his fifth foul with 4:02 left in the half and the Gators about to finish off their three-point frenzy with long balls from Walker and Parsons.

Winning with great defense has been part of the Florida formula all season. The Gators have had to play defense because the shots just haven’t fallen. For a change, Tuesday night the shots fell. Florida finished 27-53 from the field (50.9 percent) and by hitting their final four threes, they finished a respectable 35.7 percent (5-14) from beyond the arc.

“I think it was a building block off of the Mississippi game [last Saturday],” Donovan said. “We were so awful shooting the basketball in the game [against Ole Miss]. We were 1-13 from the three-point line. We shot 37 percent from the field. On the road that’s normally a formula for disaster and usually you have no chance to win the game but we found a way to win by three points.”

Tuesday night, the Gators hit some shots so they didn’t have to find a way to pull out a white knuckler at the end but there was no question they were the tougher of the two teams on the floor.

That the Gators were tough and the Vols weren’t had Pearl questioning his team’s toughness, asking out loud, “Who’s tough enough to get to the rim and get to the foul line?”

The Vols weren’t but the Gators certainly were.

GAME NOTES: Parsons and Walker led the Gators with 19 points each. It was the sixth straight game in double figures for Parsons, who has scored 95 points and pulled down 53 rebounds in that stretch … Macklin came in with the second double-double of his Florida career (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Boynton finished with 12 points … Tennessee closed the game on a 3-4 run from the three-point line to finish the game 10-23. Prior to that mini-run the Vols went through a 1-8 stretch against Florida’s defense … The Gators travel to Georgia Saturday and return home next Tuesday to face Vanderbilt before finishing the regular season against Kentucky at Rupp Arena on senior day in Lexington.

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