No. 24 Gators shoot away to beat Vanderbilt 94-69

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Billy Donovan can only hope that the rest of his 24th-ranked Florida Gators are as resilient as Chandler Parsons.

The sophomore went from missing a free throw that allowed South Carolina to win on a buzzer-beater Wednesday night to scoring a career-high 27 points as Florida routed Vanderbilt 94-69 on Sunday. Parsons hit seven 3-pointers, including his first five.

Donovan said that missed free throw with 3.3 seconds left at South Carolina had Parsons crying in the locker room.

“You talk about an emotional roller-coaster for a kid from Wednesday to Sunday, what he’s been through, it’s a lot. How does he move forward from this, and we’ll see how he handles it,” Donovan said. “I was proud of our team the way we came out.”

Florida (17-3, 4-1 SEC) won for the 11th time in 12 games with the lone loss coming at South Carolina. The Gators more than bounced back by hitting a season-best 15 3-pointers, with Parsons hitting seven of eight. He said he was fortunate to hit some open shots and thanked his teammates for finding him in the right place at the right time.

“That was definitely motivation for us,” Parsons said of the South Carolina loss. “We knew it would be tough coming here. We knew that we had to come back today more focused and play very aggressive. I think we did a good job of doing that.”

Vanderbilt (12-7, 1-4) lost its third straight and fourth in five games after failing to hold onto a six-point margin in the opening minutes. The Commodores lost their second straight home game for the first time since 2006.

“We got it handed to us,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We did not guard well and they seemed to get any shot they wanted to.”

Erving Walker also scored a career-high 17 points for Florida. Nick Calathes added 15 and Walter Hodge had 10.

George Drake led Vandy with 14 points off the bench. Jermaine Beal had 13 and Jeffery Taylor 10. Preseason All-SEC center A.J. Ogilvy, who has plantar fasciitis in his right foot, finished with four points and played only one minute in the second half.

“I hope he’s all right,” Donovan said of Ogilvy. “You can tell there’s something wrong with him.”

Stallings also has a team that has lost its confidence.

“We’re badly damaged in the productivity department. We are not getting the play we need out of some key players,” Stallings said.

Florida had lost two straight in Memorial Gym, including a loss in 2007 when the Gators came in ranked No. 1. Vandy students waved yellow foam fingers at the Gators, who won their 14th in the last 17 games of this series thanks to their sizzling shooting.

“They beat us here last year, and we wanted to get a win here,” Calathes said.

Parsons hadn’t hit more than four 3s in a game, and he topped that by connecting on his first five attempts from beyond the arc. He finished hitting 10 of his 11 shots with his teammates equally hot: Florida shot better from 3-point range (60 percent) than overall (57.4 percent).

“It wasn’t like our guys were standing there having target practice,” Donovan said.

The Gators hadn’t hit more than 14 3s in a game this season, and that was against Bradley on Nov. 16. On Sunday, they matched that with 12:36 left as Parsons answered with consecutive 3s once Vanderbilt pulled within 71-51. Parsons then threw down a dunk to push the lead back to 79-53, and Florida eventually led by as much as 32.

Florida blew open what had been a tight game featuring three ties and four lead changes with Vandy enjoying its biggest lead at 13-7. Parsons hit three consecutive 3s as part of a 16-2 run, and Florida just keep shooting with Walker and Hodge hitting a 3 apiece.

Calathes then finished off the half by sinking Florida’s 12th 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 56-37 lead—its biggest of the half. Vanderbilt had been holding opponents to 37.3 percent shooting, but the Commodores struggled to even contest many 3s and matched the most 3s allowed this season, 12 to Illinois-Chicago, in the first 20 minutes.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Florida
Chandler Parsons Chandler Parsons
10-11,  27 Pts
8 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Vanderbilt
Jermaine Beal Jermaine Beal
5-9,  13 Pts
1 Rebs, 4 Assists

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Sunday, Jan 25