GAINESVILLE — Chandler Parsons did everything possible to return to Florida's lineup Thursday night, including intensive rehab that lasted into the wee hours of the morning with trainers trying to repair a deep thigh bruise he suffered two weeks ago.
A senior with two home games remaining, Parsons desperately wanted to get back — now. And so he did.
With No. 13 Florida trailing Georgia by seven at halftime, Parsons sparked the Gators with four of his 16 points to open the second half, as Florida rallied for a 71-62 victory in front of 12,013 at the O'Connell Center.
The Gators (22-5, 11-2 SEC) clinched the No. 1 seed in the East in the SEC tournament that begins March 10 in Atlanta, and will win at least a share of the overall SEC title. The Gators have won six consecutive games, and nine of their past 10. And they aren't satisfied, with a game at Kentucky on Saturday up next.
"You know what, we never once talked about winning the East," said Parsons, injured on Feb. 12 in a collision with teammate Alex Tyus. "We have bigger goals than that. We want to win the entire conference, and we understand that we needed to come in here and take care of Georgia, and now we're on to Kentucky.
"It's definitely not going to come easy for us, but we were ready to take on the challenge."
Of the injury, Parsons said: "I couldn't really feel it."
With a 52-51 lead with 7:31 left to play, Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton hit three consecutive 3-pointers, then had an assist to Tyus on a fastbreak as part of an 11-2 run that gave the Gators a 63-53 lead. Georgia (18-9, 7-6) couldn't come back.
"After the first one, I knocked down the second, and after the second one, it just felt perfect," said Boynton, who had a team-high 18 points.
Florida scored 23 points off Georgia's 13 turnovers. The Gators had just two turnovers in the second half (five for the game) and shot 45.5 percent from the field.
"Florida just outworked us in the second half," said Georgia guard Travis Leslie, who had a game-high 20 points. "They beat us on the boards, they just fought hard and came back to get the (win)."
For Florida coach Billy Donovan, it was a bonus seeing Parsons return and play a valuable role after struggling with his injury.
"What he did to get himself back was unbelievable," Donovan said. "I would say legitimately he probably got five hours of training a day. He worked around the clock to get himself ready. I appreciate him working that hard because he really helped us."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.