Gators crush Commodores
Published: Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 5:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 5:04 p.m.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida sophomore forward Chandler Parsons glanced down at his cell phone shortly before he left Memorial Gym.
Waiting were 22 text messages in his inbox
“Mostly family and friends who watched the game,” Parsons said.
From a teary ending last Wednesday against South Carolina, Parsons and the rest of No. 24 Florida made a statement Sunday afternoon that the Gators won’t take losses lightly. Behind a career-high 27 points from Parsons and a record-setting shooting day from 3-point range, the Gators (17-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) put away Vanderbilt 94-69 in front of a nationally-televised audience.
“It feels good, but it feels better to get this big win, on the road, in a hostile environment in a must-win game for us,” Parsons said. “Now it’s over with and we have to get ready for Georgia.”
Parsons, whose front end one-and-one free-throw miss led to South Carolina’s stunning 70-69 win over Florida at the buzzer, made his first five 3-point attempts and finished the day 7-for-8 from 3-point range. Parsons also completed the best scoring day of his career with eight rebounds and four assists.
“It’s a really valuable lesson for Chandler and for the rest of our team,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Here was a kid crying his eyes out in the locker room after the South Carolina loss and then goes out and has the best game of his career. That’s how fragile this is. Let’s see now, does he have enough respect for the game because it can humble you very quickly.”
Freshman guard Erving Walker added a career-best 17 points for Florida, with Nick Calathes finishing with 15 points and four assists. Senior guard Walter Hodge scored all 10 of his points in the first half.
Florida made shots from everywhere the first 20 minutes, going 55.6 percent from the floor and 66.7 percent from 3-point range to build a 56-37 halftime lead. Florida went 12-for-18 from 3-point range in the first-half, breaking the school record for 3s in the first half. The previous mark of 11 was done twice, the last time in 1999.
Overall, Florida finished the day 15-for-25 from 3-point range, its most since making 16 against New Hampshire on Nov. 28, 2001.
“Sometimes we struggle, but this is a good passing and shooting team,” Walker said. “We have a lot of guys that can shoot the three.”
Parsons took last Wednesday’s loss the hardest and joined Calathes in a late-night shooting session following the South Carolina game. The results were noticeable. Parsons made Florida’s first shot, a 3-pointer, and then followed it up with three straight in the span of 56 seconds to put Florida ahead 23-15.
“When you get it going like that, it’s a good feeling,” Parsons said. “You have the rhythm going, the momentum is going your way. When you have guards like we do and so many unselfish players that get you open, it’s pretty easy.”
Of the five first-half 3-pointers, Parsons hit two with a hand in his face. Parsons came into the game shooting 26.8 percent from 3-point range, but showed signs of breaking out of his season-long funk by hitting two of three 3-pointers last Wednesday at South Carolina.
“I think he’s one of the best shooters in the country, but he’s been in a slump and he’s been thinking about it too much,” Calathes said. “I said just shoot the ball like you have been, and it will go, it will fall. That’s how shooters go.”
Florida actually fell behind early 13-7 during a sloppy six minute stretch in which the Gators turned the ball over three times. From there, though, it was all Gators. Calathes closed out the half with a fall-away 3-pointer at the buzzer to put Florida ahead 56-37, and the Gators started the second half with three inside baskets during a 7-0 run.
“I’ve seen our team go through halves were we shoot 1-for-12 in the first half against Arkansas, than go 8-for-13 in the second half,” Donovan said. “So I felt like we needed to get some of our inside guys involved.”
Florida bounced back from its first SEC loss and avenged a mistake-filled 61-58 loss at Vanderbilt last season. The Gators led by as many as 32 points in the second half before going to their freshmen reserves late. George Drake led Vanderbilt (12-7, 1-4 SEC) with 14 points off the bench.
“Our main focus was not to let (the South Carolina loss) affect us,” Calathes said. “I thought we played really well together. They beat us here last year so it was good to get a victory.”
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