Gators down N.C. State with miraculous final shot

Florida's Chandler Parsons (25) makes a 75-foot shot at the overtime buzzer to give Florida a 62-61 win over North Carolina State in an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010, in Raleigh, N.C.

AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman
Published: Monday, January 4, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 4, 2010 at 12:58 a.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — On this surreal afternoon, when Florida missed shots they tried to make and made shots they tried to miss, it came down to a last-gasp 75-footer from junior forward Chandler Parsons.

From an overhand release off one foot, Parsons hurled the ball online toward the basket. Inexplicably, the ball rattled through off the back of the iron, allowing the Gators to escape with an improbable 62-61 overtime win over North Carolina State at the RBC Center.

“It feels like a fantasy,” Parsons said shortly after the game. “I'm waiting for someone to pinch me to wake me up.”

Parsons said the game-winning 3-point shot, just Florida's third in 24 attempts, felt good coming off his hands.

“I'd by lying to you if I said I thought it was going to go in,” said Parsons, who said he rarely takes time on shots past halfcourt in practice. “It was pure luck. But I'm happy I was able to help my team, and I was happy we were able to get out of here with the win.”

Before 17,207 jeering, red-clad Wolpack fans at the RBC center, Florida (11-3) improved to 2-0 on the road this season and will take some positive momentum into its Southeastern Conference opener Saturday at Vanderbilt.

“North Carolina State is a good team, and they are going to have a great season,” Parsons said. “To be able to pull this out in front of their fans, with that crowd, it's huge for us.”

The Gators (11-3) rallied from six points down in overtime to win, aided by four missed North Carolina State free throw attempts in the final 38 seconds. North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe's strategy of fouling the Gators late rather than allowing them to loft a game-tying 3-point attempt in the closing seconds of overtime backfired. North Carolina State was unable to put the game away, going 10-for-19 from the free throw line.

“I wanted to keep the game to something that we could control,” Lowe said. “We wanted to put them on the line, and they made their free throws. We didn't and that was the difference in the game.”

UF sophomore point guard Erving Walker made four straight free throws in the final 7.7 seconds, including one with 3.3 seconds he tried to miss on purpose. At the time, Florida was down 60-58 and was going for an offensive rebound and putback to try to force a second overtime. But Walker's line drive shot banked off the backboard and went in to cut the lead to 60-59.

Thanks to the miraculous Parsons shot, Walker could laugh about the botched made free throw after the game.

“I guess I have to keep practicing that,” Walker said.

Off the Walker free throw, the Gators fouled N.C. State senior guard Farnold Degland, who made his first free throw attempt and missed his second to keep the score at 61-59. The rebound rolled off to Parsons, who took two dribbles before firing the desperation heave with one second remaining.

“It's amazing because in coaching, you put your heart and soul in it and sometimes you think you have a lot more control and impact than actually you do,” Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. “We were very fortunate to win.”

Donovan said the game brought back memories of Florida's heartbreaking 70-69 loss at South Carolina last season when the Gators were beat on a full-court pass and open layup off a missed free throw in the final 1.7 seconds.

“If the ball doesn't roll the way it does to Chandler, things could have been completely different,” Donovan said.

North Carolina State (10-4) appeared poised to put the game away in overtime. Guard Javier Gonzalez scored five straight points to put the Wolfpack ahead 53-48. Power forward Tracy Smith added an inside dunk and made one of two free throws to give North Carolina State a 66-60 edge with 1:15 remaining.

But after struggling on offense for most of the game, Florida scored 12 points in the final 1:02 of overtime. Alex Tyus hit an open dunk to cut the N.C. State lead to 56-52. Then, after Florida made just one of its first 22 3-point attempts, freshman Kenny Boynton hit an off-balance 3-pointer with 13.2 seconds left to cut the Wolfpack lead to 57-55.

“We just wanted to keep fighting,” Walker said. “That's what coach has been trying to get us to do, keep fighting and battling regardless of the score or what happened in the past.”

Junior center Vernon Macklin led three Florida players in double figures with 14 points. Walker added 13 points and Tyus scored 11 points.

Smith led North Carolina State with 21 points. Florida held Smith to seven points in the second half and overtime after he dominated the first half inside with 14 points.

“We were able to provide a little more help on (Smith) coming out of the zone without giving up as many 3-pointers,” Donovan said.

Both teams struggled on offense in the closing minutes, combining for just two field goals in the final 7:34 of regulation. Gonzalez hit a tip-in putback to tie the score at 48 with 28.3 seconds left in the second half. Florida had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Walker missed a 22-foot 3-point attempt with two seconds remaining, forcing OT.

“For us to have any chance because of the way we shot the ball, we had to have a great defensive effort and we did,” Donovan said.

Florida was down by as many as eight points in the first half, but closed the half with a 6-0 run to cut North Carolina State's lead to 29-27 at half­time. The Gators went 0-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half but hung around by scoring seven points off eight first-half North Carolina State turnovers.

Florida shot just 36.4 percent from the floor in the first half and 37.7 percent from the floor in the game.

“Sooner or later, we're going to have to start making some shots,” Donovan said. “Hopefully it gives our guys a little hope that if you keep battling, good things can happen. In the past, some of these guys with their body language would not have reacted as well or played as hard through a shooting day like this. Our guys were able to keep their focus.”

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