On Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 fans filled the Stephen C. O'Connell Center to watch the No. 23 Florida Gators (17-5, 6-2 SEC) take on the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores (15-6, 3-4 SEC). Florida was coming off a close loss at Mississippi State and Vandy was coming off a loss against Arkansas. This game had meaning to both teams involved and as I was there watching shootaround, the feeling that this would be a close game hit me.
The first half went back and forth as it seemed like neither the Gators nor Commodores could gain a sizable lead. It took the Gators over 12 minutes into the game to grab their first lead from a Boynton three-pointer to make it 18-16 Florida.
The first half would come to a fantastic close when Florida would have the ball with one second remaining. Parsons inbounded the ball to Erving Walker at the top of the key and Walker dialed up a deep, clutch three-pointer giving the Gators the lead going into halftime 25-24. Parsons had a good first half as he had made a three-pointer, had a put-back slam and was crashing the boards effectively.
Florida had the lead for most of the second half. The Gators came out of halftime strong and started off the second half with an Alex Tyus hook shot. Florida easily won the rebounding battle as they grabbed 42 boards to Vandy's 29. Vanderbilt had three bigs who fouled out of this game: C Festus Ezeli, F Jeffery Taylor and F Steve Tchiengang.
The game's leading scorer, John Jenkins, played 42 minutes and scored 22 points. Jenkins shot the ball well and was a threat all night when the ball was in his hands. Though he had a great game, his team just could not pull out the win in Gainesville.
Chandler Parsons had a decent game. He led the Gators in points (18), rebounds (11) and steals (three). Most impressively though, Parsons went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. Free-throw shooting is normally a weakness of Parsons' but it was not last night and his clutch free throws would eventually help close the game for the Gators.
Guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton both scored 15 points last night and both made clutch three-pointers in the game.
Erving's came as time expired in the first half and Boynton's came in overtime with 1:04 left to give the Gators the lead. Both Walker and Boynton were great from the free-throw line as they were a combined 8-of-10. Not to let it go unnoticed, Walker also stepped up on defense in overtime as he took a charge in the paint to give the Gators the ball back.
Florida will host the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats (16-5, 4-3 SEC) on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 9:00 PM ET. Go Gators!