Fast out of the gate but down six at halftime, the No. 12 Florida Gators (25-6) outscored the Tennessee Volunteers (19-14) 56-40 in the second half on their way to a 85-74 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome on Friday evening in Atlanta, GA.
Gators sophomore guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his squad with a team-high 22 points. Junior point guard Erving Walker and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin were dynamite in the second half, adding 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Florida started hot, using an early 12-4 run to go up 21-20. Senior forward Alex Tyus hit his first four shots of the game and the Gators started 9-for-12 from the field.
After taking a 12-point lead, 25-13, Florida allowed Tennessee to take off on a ridiculous 21-4 run to end the half. The Volunteers forced eight turnovers and held the Gators scoreless the final 6:22 of the half, outscoring them 9-0 during that period.
UF started the second half with plenty of aggression, using a 13-4 run including six points from Boynton to take a 49-46 lead. Minutes later, tied at 50, Florida scored seven-straight to jump ahead 57-50 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
The Gators extended their lead to a game-high 15, 80-65, on two free throws from freshman C Patric Young with 2:25 left.
However, a quick turnover by Young while being pressed in the backcourt led to a three from Volunteers G Scotty Hopson and a 6-1 run that brought Tennessee’s deficit down to nine. In the double bonus for most of the second half, Florida took foul shots the rest of the way to hold on to the victory.
Senior F Chandler Parsons proved to be the glue the Gators needed, scoring 12 points while grabbing seven boards, dishing four assists, snatching two steals and blocking a pair of shots. Tyus and Young each added five rebounds with the latter playing top-notch defense in the second half.
Tennessee F Tobias Harris flexed his muscles down low all game, going 10-for-17 for a game-high 25 points. Volunteers C Brian Williams brought down a game-high 12 rebounds, and Hopson finished 6-for-14 from the floor for 19 points.
Early in the first half, Parsons got his 500th career field goal – only the sixth player under head coach Billy Donovan to reach that mark – and Walker hit his 198th career three-pointer, good for fifth all-time in school history.
Florida awaits the outcome of Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State late Friday to determine who they face on Saturday. The game will air live on ABC at 3:30 p.m.