Gators win first game at Thompson-Boling since 2005


Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 12:18 a.m.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Florida needed extra time to exorcise the demons of Thompson-Boling Arena games past.

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Florida's Alex Tyus dunks during the overtime period against Tennessee on Tuesday in Knoxville, Tenn. Florida won 81-75.

The Associated Press

Facts

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Florida play better defensively after a so-so effort against Ole Miss?
It was another mediocre effort for the Florida defense, but the Gators did come up with some big defensive plays at the end of regulation and in overtime to seal the win. Alex Tyus had a block at the end of regulation to keep the score tied at 68 and a steal and breakaway layup in overtime. Tennessee shot 47.4 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range. Florida had some defensive lapses early in the first half, but tightened up late, allowing just one basket in the final 5:36 of the first half. Rebounds were even at 35.

2. Can the Gators keep talented Tennessee swing-man Scotty Hopson in check?
Hopson had a big day with 20 points, but his shots were contested, resulting in a 6-for-15 day from the field. Hopson was effective, driving to the basket and drawing fouls. Hopson made six of eight free-throw attempts.

3. Will head coach Bruce Pearl's absence make a difference in how the Vols play?
Tennessee interim coach Tony Jones called some questionable timeouts, including one when the Vols had numbers going to the basket in the second half. The Vols had a well-designed play on their last possession of regulation, but Florida senior forward Alex Tyus came up with a big blocked shot to keep the score tied at 68 at the end of regulation.

But the Gators overcame some shaky moments down the stretch in regulation to beat Tennessee 81-75 in overtime for their first win at the Vols homecourt since 2005.

"I look at it more as it's a win in the Eastern Division," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It's one game. It's one win. I think you like the fact that it's on the road and it's in your division. We'll enjoy it for tonight and then get ready for South Carolina."




Florida (13-3, 2-0 SEC) extended its modest winning streak to five games. It didn't come easy. Florida needed contributions from everyone. All five starters reached double figures, led by senior forward Alex Tyus, who had 18 points and three blocked shots.

Tyus had a big steal and breakaway dunk in overtime to put Florida ahead 74-68 with 2:12 left. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton added a big 3-pointer with 41.7 seconds left in overtime off a pick from Tyus to extend the Florida lead to 77-70.

Boynton, 1-for-5 from 3-point range in regulation, made both of his 3-point attempts in overtime.

"I just tried to put (the missed shots) behind me," Boynton said.

Boynton scored eight of his 17 points in overtime. Senior forward Chandler Parsons had 16 points, Erving Walker had 15 points and center Vernon Macklin chipped in with 11 points

"It feels pretty good," Parsons said. "This is a very hard place to play against a very good team. We needed everyone to step up. There were so many big plays."

Florida overcame an 11-for-20 night from the foul line with some big defensive plays at the end of regulation and overtime. The Gators also remained hot from the perimeter, shooting 8-of-16 from 3-point range.

Cameron Tatum led Tennessee (10-6, 0-2 SEC) with 21 points. Scottie Hopson added 20 points, and freshman Tobias Harris added 18 points for the Vols, who played their second game without suspended coach Bruce Pearl. Tennessee fell to 0-2 under interim coach Tony Jones.

Tyus had a chance to put Florida ahead in regulation, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with 42 seconds left and the score tied at 68. But Tyus atoned for the miss on the other end, blocking a shot from Tennessee center Brian Williams with seven seconds left to help force overtime.

"I was a little upset," Tyus said. "I had to battle. We're trying to get a block, do anything to keep them from scoring."

Donovan said he could see that Tyus was disappointed coming back to the bench. Tyus also missed a bank shot at the buzzer of Florida's 61-60 loss at Tennessee last season.

"I was happy for him to be able to stay in the game mentally and help our team," Donovan said.

Said Tyus: "I had to keep fighting. We had to keep fighting together."

Florida led 64-58 when Walker hit a running shot in the lane. But Tennessee responded with a 6-0 run. Two costly turnovers hurt the Gators. The first, a steal off a Parsons in-bound pass, resulted in two Tatum free throws that cut the Florida lead to 64-62. The second, a backward pass from Tyus to Walker, was stolen by Tennessee point guard Trae Golden, whose driving breakaway layup tied the score at 64.

Florida extended the lead back to 68-64 with a Macklin hook shot with 2:35 left. But Tennessee answered, tying the score at 68 with 1:41 left on a Williams putback.

"We knew they weren't going to go away," Parsons said. "

Florida suffered some early defensive lapses. For the second straight game, the Gators had issues with leaving shooters open on the perimeter, allowing Tennessee to shoot 4-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half.

After Florida took an early 19-15 lead, Tennessee responded with a 14-2 run, going ahead 29-21 on a Melvin Goins layup with 5:46 remaining. Tatum and Hopson both hit 3-pointers during the run.

But with freshman Scottie Wilbekin in for Walker, Florida held Tennessee to just one basket the rest of the half. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Parsons cut Tennessee's lead to 29-27. Florida then went ahead 30-29 on a Macklin hook shot and extended the lead to 32-29 on a breakaway Boynton layup with 46.7 seconds remaining.

Tennessee center Josh Fields made an open dunk inside with 17 seconds remaining to cut Florida's lead to 32-31 at halftime. The Gators scored 20 of their 32 first-half points in the paint and had eight second-chance points.

Tyus, who had just 2 points in UF's SEC opener against Ole Miss, scored Florida's first seven points to help the Gators snap their five-game losing streak at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"I think Vernon, Alex, our balance inside and out was pretty good," Donovan said. "We did a pretty good job spreading the basketball and keeping everyone involved."

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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