Macklin ends Senior Night with scorching second half
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 12:21 a.m.
Vernon Macklin had seen something like this before. Twice, in fact.
As a reserve at Georgetown, he witnessed the Hoyas claim two Big East titles. Watching his teammates celebrate, Macklin felt delighted to be on championship teams, but sitting behind the likes of Roy Hibbert and not getting a chance to really contribute, there was always something missing.
There was nothing missing for Macklin Tuesday night.
Florida’s senior center was unstoppable for the final 20 minutes of the Gators’ 78-51 win over Alabama to clinch at least a share of the SEC regular season title — the fifth in school history.
Three years removed from leaving Georgetown for Gainesville, Macklin couldn’t be happier with his decision to restart his career with the Gators.
“Actually winning one here and being a part of it, it’s great,” Macklin said. “I’m happy to be here and I’m thankful for these guys accepting me here at this university. I feel honored right now.
“I’m glad to be a Gator and I’m thankful for Coach (Billy) Donovan and the coaching staff taking a chance on me, with me transferring, because they don’t really take transfer players.”
After all the Senior Night hoopla was over with, minutes before the opening tip, nerves ran high throughout Florida’s basketball team. Erratic shooting and careless play hurt a team battling for an SEC ring.
Macklin said he stayed calm, but as Alabama constantly double-teamed the 6-foot-10, 218-pound bruiser, he found it harder and harder to make baskets. With the Tide in a zone for most of the first half, Macklin was reduced to playing set-up man more than being a staple in the underneath offense.
But there are always two halves to these games.
After scoring just five points on 2 of 3 shooting in the first frame, Macklin came out on fire in the second.
With Alabama moving to man, Macklin opened with rim-rattling dunk, a layup and a hook shot to give him six straight points and a five-point lead for the Gators.
“We like our chances with ‘Vern’ on anybody in the country one-on-one,” senior forward Chandler Parsons said.
“We just wanted to give him the ball and let him work.”
And work he did.
Even as he drew more double teams, he was able to dominate in the paint. He even pulled off a few highlight reel plays when he converted an alley-oop from Erving Walker from beyond the 3-point line and slammed in a couple of missed shots that not only jump-started Florida’s crowd of 12,225, but ignited his teammates.
“Once I got it I wanted to be really aggressive,” Macklin said. “I felt great when I got the ball.”
Macklin missed just two of his nine second-half shots, finishing tied for a game-high 19 points. He not only frustrated the Tide with his tremendous offensive play, but limited forward JaMychal Green to six second-half points and was a driving force in center Chris Hines’ fouling out.
“We were over-matched inside and he took advantage of that,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said of Macklin.
As Macklin joined his fellow seniors in last-minute standing ovations as they were subbed out, he silently yearned to stay on the floor. Though he’d done enough in the biggest collegiate game he’s been a part of, Macklin wanted to savor even more by running out the clock on the court in front of fans he’s grown to love as they’ve totally embraced him.
“I honestly didn’t want the game to end,” he said. “I’ve never been around a fan base as crazy as the University of Florida. I love our fans and I love playing here.
“Coach Donovan told us when we go out on the court, to play like we didn’t want to clock to run out and that’s all I wanted to do.”