Florida earns 61-60 victory over Tennessee
Florida junior guard Erving Walker hit a driving layup with 14.7 seconds remaining, then his defensive effort on Tennessee senior guard Melvin Goins on the final shot helped the No. 17 Gators to a 61-60 victory over arch-rival Tennessee in front of 12,630 at the O’Connell Center Saturday night.
The Gators (20-5) now have a 3 ½ game lead on Kentucky and Tennessee, 2 ½ on Georgia in the SEC East race.
With the victory, Florida coach Billy Donovan has led the Gators to 20-win seasons 13 consecutive years.
“We’re all stepping up to the plate right now and working real hard, and it’s coming out great for us,’’ senior center Vernon Macklin said. “ I think every win in the SEC is a good win but the way we grinded it out, I can say it was a great win for us, especially being at home.’’
Trailing 60-59 with 30.7 seconds remaining, Tyus missed two free throws. Florida immediately fouled Vols’ junior guard Cameron Tatum, who missed the front end of the one-and-one. Tyus grabbed the rebound, passed to Walker, who drove the lane and scored on a layup. On the ensuing possession, Goins’ final shot hit the front of the rim, and the Gators survived.
“I’m not going to lie, Goins’ last shot looked on line when it came off (his hands),’’ Walker said.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who took the loss hard, said the Vols (15-10, 5-5) steered away from what he had designed for the final play.
“If we ran the play we called, I’m confident we would have scored,’’ he said.
Walker had a team-high 16 points.