No. 14 Gators beat Alabama, clinch share of SEC

Preview | Box Score | Recap| *Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—As Chandler Parsons reached out to shake Jeremy Foley’s hand, he asked Florida’s athletic director to “size me up.”

For a Southeastern Conference championship ring, of course.

Parsons had a season-high 19 points to go with 11 rebounds, Vernon Macklin had 19 points and the 14th-ranked Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC title by beating Alabama 78-51 on Tuesday night.

“It feels really good,” Parsons said. “It’s been a long time coming, but I hope this is just the beginning of me being a champion. I hope we can keep winning many more games.”

The Gators, who have won 10 of their last 12 games, can claim their fifth outright league title with a win at No. 21 Vanderbilt on Saturday. Florida (23-6, 12-3) also would win the league if Georgia beats Alabama earlier that day.

The Crimson Tide (19-10, 11-4) needed a road win to improve their chances of making the NCAA tournament. Now, Alabama likely needs to win the SEC tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid.

Either way, the Tide probably would like to avoid the Gators in the postseason.

Florida dominated every aspect of the second half, using a 10-0 run to build a double-digit lead and then pouring it on with 3-pointers and dunks. The Gators made 26 of their final 37 shots against the SEC’s best defense in their best half of the season and maybe the program’s best half since winning consecutive national titles in 2006 and 2007.

“I thought we played special in the second half,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Seniors Parsons, Macklin and Alex Tyus were right in the middle of it—on “Senior Night” no less. Tyus finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

“There hasn’t been a lot of SEC championships in Florida’s basketball history,” Donovan said. “For Chandler and Alex and Vernon to have a piece of that—and not only have a piece of that, but to play the way they did tonight— I’m just so happy for them. I didn’t know three or four years ago if a day like a today was possible for some of these guys.

“I don’t think it could have been scripted any better for those three guys.”

Kenny Boynton added 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, and Erving Walker came alive in the second half with two 3s. Walker had eight points and seven assists.

Trevor Releford led the Tide with 17 points, while Tony Mitchell added 14. Leading scorer JaMychal Green finished with 10 points, missing 13 of 19 shots.

After consecutive hook shots by Macklin, the Gators led 39-36 early in the second half. Then, everything went right during a 10-minute stretch that turned a close game into a laugher.

Boynton and Parsons sandwiched 3s around Patric Young’s dunk, and Parsons added two free throws to make it an 11-0 run. The Gators were just getting started.

Parsons hit another 3, and Macklin followed with a nifty alley-oop and a powerful dunk. Walker got into the barrage with two 3s, and Florida got the O’Connell Center really rocking when Tyus converted a three-point play and Boynton followed with another 3.

“They came out with great energy in the second half, got some shots to fall and it kind of snowballed on us from there,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.

The Gators finished 8 of 21 from behind the arc—really impressive considering they missed their first 10 shots from that range.

“I saw it slipping away when we stopped competing,” Releford said. “We stopped playing as a team and started doing individual stuff. They started hitting shots at home and got the crowd into it.”

The only thing left for Florida in the final minutes was getting the seniors standing ovations. Donovan took it a step further by putting injured senior Adam Allen in the game. Allen hadn’t played since his freshman year because of knee problems.

He endured three operations and had planned to seek a medical hardship for a fifth year.

But Allen said Monday he was giving up basketball. The coaches responded by telling him to be ready just in case. And as the lead grew, Allen kept checking his jersey to make sure he had it on. He did. He also had a huge smile on his face when he entered the game and dribbled out the clock. He considered taking a final shot, but didn’t want to run up the score. Instead, he settled on starting the championship celebration.

“It was unreal,” Allen said.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Alabama
Trevor Releford Trevor Releford
6-9,  17 Pts
3 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Florida
Chandler Parsons Chandler Parsons
7-14,  19 Pts
11 Rebs, 3 Assists

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Tuesday, Mar 1