Florida holds off Georgia in 2OT


Georgia forward Trey Thompkins (33) loses the ball as he drives against Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, right, and Florida forward Patric Young during the first half in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 8:50 p.m.

ATHENS, Ga. — Since Florida junior point guard Erving Walker was a kid, he's been used to taking a step or two back when shooting 3-pointers.

Facts

THREE QUESTIONS

1. Can Florida get off to a good start and silence the crowd at Stegeman Coliseum?
Florida jumped to a quick 9-2 lead, but couldn't sustain it. The Gators were manhandled inside early and trailed 30-22 after an inside basket from Georgia forward Jeremy Price. Florida, though, managed to cut into Georgia's eight-point first-half lead to keep it close enough at halftime to mount a comeback. Florida trailed 41-39 at the half despite being out-rebounded 34-14.

2. Will Florida's experienced front line keep Georgia forwards Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins in check?
Leslie had 21 points and Thompkins added 20 points and 13 rebounds, including a put-back at the buzzer that tied the score at 73 at the end of regulation. Florida had some early issues keeping Georgia off the boards, but finished with an even rebounding margin (47-47).

3. Can Florida get significant contributions from its bench?
Erik Murphy and Patric Young provided significant contributions for the Gators off the bench. Murphy had seven points and three rebounds, including a big 3-pointer that put Florida up 50-47 in the second half. Young had two points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and three steals.

That advice came from his dad, who used to coach the 5-foot-8 Walker in youth basketball leagues.

On Tuesday night against Georgia, Walker hit the biggest of his deep 3-pointers to date. With Florida on its way to a potential heartbreaking overtime loss at Georgia, Walker drained a miracle 30-footer with one second left to tie the game at 85 and send it to a second overtime. From there, Florida dominated the next five minutes to beat Georgia 104-91 before a stunned sellout crowd of 10,523 at Stegeman Coliseum.




For Walker, it was redemption after missing two of three free throws in the final 35.1 seconds that turned a routine ending into an instant classic.

"I knew I had put my team at risk with the missed free throws," Walker said. "I wanted to make up for it and give our team another life."

It energized the Gators. Florida started the second overtime with nine straight points and was never challenged the rest of the way.

Walker and Kenny Boynton each led Florida with 24 points. Senior center Vernon Macklin added 23 points, and Chandler Parsons scored nine of his 18 points in the second overtime.

Parsons added 12 rebounds for his 10th career double-double.

"It didn't come easy," Parsons said. "There were some big plays on both sides. That was a big-time win for us, another overtime win that we needed."

The game had its share of subplots, beginning with Florida's inability to close the game out in regulation. Florida scored just one point in the final 2:47 on a Walker free throw. Georgia point guard Gerald Robinson hit a big 3-pointer with 21.3 seconds left to cut the Florida lead to 72-71. After Walker made just one of two free throws, Georgia had the ball with 20.4 seconds left and the shot clock off. Georgia guard Dustin Ware missed a drive to the basket, but junior forward Trey Thompkins was there for a wide-open put-back at the buzzer to tie the score at 73 and send the game to overtime.

"Patric (Young) came over to help Vernon, so we had two guys contesting the ball and we left the weak side wide open," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "But there were so many ifs in the second. If Ware takes one more dribble on the play, maybe Thompkins doesn't get the put-back off before regulation."

Donovan said he was concerned with his team's mindset heading into the first overtime.

"We were kind of teetering a bit," Donovan said.

It showed.

Florida and Georgia traded baskets for much of the first overtime, but the Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3 SEC) were in position to close the game out in the final minute. Robinson hit a pair of free throws to put Georgia ahead 83-82. Boynton then missed a runner in the lane, but Thompkins missed the front end of a one-and-one with 23.1 seconds left. Off a time out, Florida couldn't get a shot toward the basket. Boynton was stripped by forward Jeremy Price, who hit a pair of free throws with 6.7 seconds left to extend Georgia's lead to 85-82.

With time running out, Walker raced the ball down the court.

"I was looking for Thompkins and saw he was back," Walker said. "I didn't want him to block it. When the clock said two seconds left, I let it go."

And gave Florida new life.

"With Erv, you always think it has a chance," Donovan said.

In the second overtime, Florida came out re-energized. Walker began the second overtime with a driving bank-shot to put Florida ahead 87-85. Macklin followed with a put-back, and Parsons hit a 3-pointer. Parsons then forced a steal on Georgia forward Travis Leslie and followed with another put-back layup to extend the Florida lead to 94-85.

"That's (Florida strength coach) Matt Herring getting us up at 6 a.m., doing suicides," Parsons said.

Said Donovan: "I think Erv's shot probably energized us a little bit."

Leslie led Georgia with 21 points, with Thompkins adding 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Boynton scored 13 points in the first half, keeping Florida close through some rough early stretches. The Gators couldn't take advantage of an early 9-2 lead, falling behind 30-22 on an inside layup from Price.

But Florida answered with a 6-0 run, with four points coming from Erik Murphy on a put-back and a hook in the lane. The Gators kept it close for the remainder of the half despite some early rebounding struggles. Georgia out-rebounded Florida 24-14 in the first half, scoring 17 second-chance points.

The Gators wound up even (47-47) on the boards by the end of the game.

"Chandler had one rebound in the first half, and in the final 30 minutes he had 11 rebounds," Donovan said. "I was really proud of his effort on the boards for us."

On the plus side, Florida had seven first-half steals, converting 12 points off Georgia's 10 first-half turnovers.

Boynton and Macklin combined to make four straight free throws to tie the score at 39. But Georgia guard Vincent Williams hit a jumper with 36.7 seconds left in the half to put Georgia up 41-39 at halftime.

Williams played extensive minutes for Robinson, who picked up two first-half fouls. Parsons sat the final seven minutes of the first half for Florida with two fouls.

Florida improved to 5-0 on the road on the season and kept its hold on first place in the SEC East.

"We're still in first place, but we don't want to let up," Parsons said. "We're going to get some rest and try to build on this going into Mississippi State."

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