Parsons lifts Gators over Gamecocks at the buzzer


Florida forward Chandler Parsons, left, is congratulated by teammate Vernon Macklin, right, after Chandler scored the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to defeat South Carolina 58-56 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday, January 23, 2010. According to officials, Florida scored their last game-winning buzzer-beater in 2003 against Georgia.

Aaron E. Daye/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 10:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 10:28 p.m.

Florida junior Chandler Parsons vowed last October this season was going to be different.

Facts

THREE QUESTIONS

1. How well can the Gators contain South Carolina point guard Devan Downey?
Downey scored 36 points despite being double-teamed most of the night by Florida guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker. Florida did force Downey into some misses. He was 12-for-25 from the floor and 4-for-11 from 3-point range. Downey was forced to take a high volume of shots because South Carolina had few other reliable offensive options.

2. Will Florida be able to recover physically and mentally from a one-day turnaround after a big road win Thursday night against Arkansas?
The Gators didn't have a great day from the perimeter, held to just 41.5 percent from the floor for the game and 33 percent from the floor in the first half. Florida coach Billy Donovan said he chose not to press because he was concerned about fatigue. Donovan said on normal rest he would have tried to press to speed the game up, because South Carolina was effective guarding the Gators in the halfcourt.

3. Can the Gators exploit South Carolina's undersized frontline?
Florida out-rebounded the Gamecocks 36-34, but still gave up 11 South Carolina offensive rebounds. A Lakeem Jackson offensive rebound with under a minute remaining for South Carolina was crucial. With the extra possession, Downey scored a fall-away jumper with 22 seconds left to put the Gamecocks ahead 54-52. Despite being the worst rebounding team in the SEC, South Carolina out-scored Florida 10-8 in second-chance points.

He grew his hair long. He dedicated himself to defense.

But on a wild Saturday at the O'Connell Center, Parsons added to his growing legend as a clutch shot-maker. His 21-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted Florida to a 58-56 win over South Carolina.

After sinking the winning shot, Parsons turned and did a Gator chomp toward the student section. Teammates then dog-piled him at the other end of the court.

"Unbelievable," Parsons said, shaking his head. "I just keep asking myself how this happens. I was in the right place at the right time."

Three weeks ago, Parsons was in the right place at the right time when he lofted a 75-footer to beat North Carolina State 62-61 in overtime. Against South Carolina, Parsons had missed his previous three 3-point attempts before sinking the game-winner.

"It felt good coming off my hands," Parsons said. "I'm not going to lie and say that the N.C. State shot felt as good. But it was just good, to be able to do it at home and get a big win."

The improbable ending began when South Carolina guard Devan Downey split three Florida defenders to hit a bank shot with 5.1 seconds left to put South Carolina ahead 56-55. Off a quick in-bounds from senior Dan Werner, UF point guard Erving Walker raced the ball up the court. Walker, who had been the only UF player to make a 3-pointer in the game, dished to the open Parsons rather than take a contested shot.

“I was trying to get the best shot I could,” Walker said. “If they had opened up, I would have taken the shot. (South Carolina) wanted to converge to me, so I gave it off to Chandler.”

Florida (14-5, 3-2 SEC) survived a cold-shooting day on a two-day turnaround after playing Thursday night at Arkansas. The Gators shot 41.5 percent from the floor, but held the Gamecocks to 38.2 percent shooting to pull out the win.

Downey was a one-man show, scoring 36 of South Carolina's 56 points. His 36-point performance was the most for an opponent at the O'Connell Center since former LSU point guard Chris Jackson scored a O-Dome record 53 points against the Gators in 1988.

Lost in the crazy ending was three clutch free throws from Florida freshman Kenny Boynton with 11 seconds left that put the Gators ahead 55-54. Off a timeout, Donovan then instructed Boynton and Walker to double-team Downey and take the ball from him.

“We told our other three guys they had to defend four guys,” Donovan said. “I was prepared to have someone else beat us.”

But Downey split Boynton, Walker and Florida forward Alex Tyus to make a 12-foot bank shot as he fell to the court. The 5-foot-9 Downey scored South Carolina's final nine points.

“We had two guys on him the whole game, so his 36 points was really against two guys,” Donovan said. “I've been in the league 19 years and the closest thing I've seen to that is when (LSU's) Chris Jackson scored 44 against us at Rupp Arena when I was an assistant at Kentucky.”

Boynton led four Florida players in double-figures, scoring all 14 of his points in the second half. Walker added 13 points and seven assists. Parsons posted his fourth-career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Tyus had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Florida led 38-32 on a Tyus layup with 11:52 remaining before allowing South Carolina back in the game during a 5:24 scoreless stretch. A Downey 3-pointer with 9:44 left put South Carolina ahead 39-38.

But Walker tied the score at 40 on a layup with 6:27 left, then followed with a 3-pointer to give the Gators a 43-40 lead.

Florida held the lead until 22 seconds remaining, when Downey hit a fall-away jumper to put the Gamecocks up 54-52. But on the other end, Boynton was fouled by South Carolina freshman Ramon Galloway on a 3-point attempt with 11 seconds remaining. Calmly, Boynton made all three free-throw attempts to put the Gators ahead 55-54.

Boynton had missed a free-throw at the end of a regional playoff semifinal game that ended his high school career at American Heritage last season.

“I just told myself that I was going to take as much time as I could between each shot, and focus on one of them at a time,” Boynton said.

For the second straight game, Florida was able to pull off a win in the closing minutes. The Gators improved to 4-2 this season in games decided by five points or less.

“We didn't want to go back under .500 in the SEC,” Parsons said. “That's a good South Carolina team over there, especially with Devan Downey. Words can't explain how good of a player he is.”

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