Florida routs Alabama on Senior Night for share of SEC title
Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 8:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 8:49 p.m.
Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons gathered his teammates at halftime and provided a simple message.
1. How will Florida's seniors respond to the emotion of Senior Night with a share of an SEC title at stake?
The Gators seniors were shaky early before coming through in the second half. Senior center Vernon Macklin scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half. After missing all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half, senior Chandler Parsons came though with a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the second half. Alex Tyus contributed a strong game with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
2. Can Florida do a better job on the offensive boards than it did Saturday at Kentucky?
The Gators were much better on the boards against Alabama, converting 13 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points. Florida had just one second-chance point against Kentucky.
3. How well can Florida's primary ball-handlers take care of a ball against an Alabama team that leads the SEC in steals?
Florida's guards were steady throughout the game, committing just four of UF's eight turnovers. The Gators allowed just eight points off turnovers.
“We've got 20 more minutes to win an SEC championship,” Parsons told them. “Homecourt, last home game for our seniors. We have to bring it all together.”
Behind a dominating final 20 minutes, No. 14 Florida clinched a share of the Southeastern Conference title with a 78-51 win Tuesday night over Alabama at the O'Connell Center.
On Senior Night, Florida's seniors came up big. Parsons had a season-high 19 points and 11 rebounds for his 14th career double-double. Vernon Macklin had 19 points and Alex Tyus chipped in with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
“I couldn't dream of a better way to end my career here,” Parsons said. “The atmosphere was great. Our younger guys played really well for our seniors tonight. It was an unbelievable ending.”
Florida (23-6, 12-3 SEC) won its fifth SEC basketball title in school history, but so far, only two (1989, 2007) have been outright titles. The Gators can clinch their third outright title with a win Saturday at Vanderbilt.
“I don't want to hear anything about co- or share,” Tyus said. “Just win outright and get this win against Vandy.”
Tied at 30 at halftime, Florida took control of the game with a 17-4 run early in the second half. After Alabama center JaMychal Green hit a layup to cut Florida's lead to 39-38, sophomore guard Kenny Boynton answered with a 3-pointer. After a dunk from freshman Patric Young, Parsons added a 3-pointer to extend Florida's lead to 47-38.
Parsons hit another 3-pointer to put Florida up 54-42, and off a Young steal, Macklin had a dunk in transition to extend UF's lead to 56-42 with 9:04 left.
“It was all about us getting stops,” Parsons said. “In the first half they were getting easy buckets, getting in and out of transition and they kept getting layups and dunks. We wanted to limit that and get back in transition and make them score against our half-court defense.”
Florida shot 69.2 percent from the floor in the second half (18-26) and 66.7 percent from 3-point range (6-9) in the second half to put the game away.
“The second half, I thought, we played special,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I've seen glimpses of that in practice and as a coach, you are always trying to get that out of them. It was about as good a half as we've played all year.”
The Gators overcame a first 20 minutes in which they appeared tight. Florida started the game 2-of-14 from the floor and missed its first 10 3-point attempts. Still, the Gators kept the game close by forcing 11 Alabama turnovers in the first half.
“”We played really hard. We played really aggressive. But as coach, when you're sitting over there and every time you watch them shoot the ball it's a little bit long, maybe they were a little bit too excited,” Donovan said.
In the second half, Florida played more relaxed, moving the ball well against Alabama's mix of zone and man defenses. Boynton added 14 points and 6 assists. Overall, Florida finished the game with 19 assists to just 8 turnovers.
Defensively, Florida double-teamed Green throughout the game. Green had just 10 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Freshman point guard Trevor Relaford led Alabama (19-10, 11-4 SEC) with 17 points.
“We just wanted to eliminate (Green's) post touches,” Donovan said.
Florida's improved shooting in the second half allowed the Gators to stretch Alabama's zone defense. The Crimson Tide, who came into the game allowing just 58.2 points per game, allowed 48 points in the second half.
“They came out with great energy in the second half,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “Shots were falling, and it kind of snowballed on us from there.”
Florida also wrapped up the outright SEC East division title with the win, which included senior Adam Allen dribbling the ball the final seconds after missing the past three seasons with knee injuries. Donovan was able to check Parsons, Macklin and Tyus out of the game to a loud applause from the announced 12,225 at the O'Dome.
“I think as seniors, we now understand what it takes to win,” Parsons said. “Our guards played very unselfish tonight. For us to play like this with so much at stake was unbelievable. I can't explain it.”
FREE THROWS: Florida finished the season 14-3 overall in the O'Connell Center, and 7-1 at home in SEC games. ... Junior point guard Erving Walker had a season-high 7 assists.