Parsons plays huge role in win vs. Kentucky


Published: Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 12:47 a.m.

The ball didn’t go in the stands like it did six years ago when Matt Walsh chucked it after grabbing the rebound that sealed a special win over Kentucky. But it was very similar to what we saw that night. A missed 3 by the Wildcats. A rebound. Double zeroes on the clock.

Pure exhilaration.

The ball sailed out of Kenny Boynton’s hands high into the air.

“I looked up and saw it was over before I threw it,” Boynton said Saturday night. “I knew we had the win secured.”

Florida finished off its most prosperous week of basketball since the 2007 national championship by holding off No. 10 Kentucky 70-68. They did it on a night when their defense was tested by the dynamic duo of Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, who combined to score 42 of the UK points. They did it with made free throws — 18-of-22 if you can believe it.

And they did it with Mr. Reliable.

There was a time when we wondered if Chandler Parsons was simply Nick Calathes’ caddy. But over the past two years, the 6-foot-10 forward has turned into one of the best-loved players UF has produced.

On Saturday night, he was big again. Really big.

Kentucky had made one of those runs you used to see Kentucky teams make all the time. You know they are coming, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Florida had taken a 13-point lead in front of a record crowd that felt a lot like those big crowds used to feel in the O-Dome when the ’Cats came to town. There were hundreds of Kentucky fans who were getting really loud and their “Go Big Blue!” chants were ringing in the ears of the Gator players whose offense had suddenly taken a vacation.

It was Jones who hit a 3 to put Kentucky ahead at 59-58 and then put circled fingers to his left eye with the other three fingers extended. He and Knight, who was returning to his home state and showing Gator fans what they missed, seemed to be enjoying their first game in this rivalry. Knight was smiling every time he took the ball in bounds.

But Parsons went to work where he has been incredibly efficient of late — the boards.

He grabbed a Boynton miss and put it back in while being fouled in the process. After Kentucky regained the lead at 64-61, Parsons dunked in another missed shot to cut it to one. It was an Alex Tyus hook shot that danced on the rim for what seemed like 15 minutes that ended up providing the winning points, but a Parsons free throw was the last point of the game. Knight missed a long 3, Boynton snatched the ball out of the air and the celebration began.

Parsons ferociously grabbing rebounds is becoming the norm. He had averaged 12 per game in his last four before Saturday night and grabbed 12 again against the Wildcats, saving me the chore of doing math.

“Those were just pure hustle plays,” Parsons said. “There aren’t any skills in putting the ball back into the basket. It was just me being aggressive.”

When you think about the SEC’s great rebounders, Parsons doesn’t come to mind around the conference. But during Saturday’s Alabama-Tennessee game, the announcers asked a question — who is the active leading rebounder in the SEC?

“I saw that, too,” Parsons said. “A friend of mine called me and said it has to be you. I said, ‘No way.’ “

It is Parsons, who now has 753. Two of his biggest came against Kentucky in front of an electric crowd Saturday night.

When Walsh threw the ball in the stands six years ago, nobody knew that Florida was about to go on a long seven-game winning streak against Kentucky. Nobody is suggesting that’s about to happen again because this was not about what might happen.

It was about what did happen.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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