GAINESVILLE — With the nation's second-leading shot blocker coming to town, conventional wisdom suggested undersized Florida would need everything it could get from its backcourt players to earn a win over Jarvis Varnado and Mississippi State.
But on a day when the Gators' guard duo of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton could muster only a 12-of-23 outing, it was junior center Vernon Macklin and junior forward Chandler Parsons who carried the load.
Macklin had a career day, scoring on five of Florida's first seven second-half possessions, and Parsons had a double double to lead the Gators to a 69-62 win over Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon at the O'Connell Center.
Macklin and Parsons were a combined 15-of-22 from the field and scored 20 and 18 respectively, a career high for Macklin.
"Honestly, the double double means nothing to me, it's just the win was so huge," said Parsons, who had 12 rebounds. "I knew that I was going to have to rebound (Saturday), so I wasn't worried about how many, I just wanted to make sure I rebounded and not let my guy rebound."
Florida (17-6, 6-3 SEC) trailed Mississippi State (16-7, 4-4) by two at halftime but opened the second half by dominating the inside via Macklin. He scored 12 of Florida's first 14 second-half points, all inside the paint, including back-to-back dunks.
"We weren't really going at him (Varnado)," Macklin said. "A lot of the guards saw I was open and they passed the ball down low, and I decided to make a strong move."
Trailing 41-39, Florida went on a 16-4 run. The Bulldogs mounted a 7-0 run down the stretch to pull within 61-56 with 1:10 left. The Gators hit 8 of 10 free throws in the final minute.
The Gators outrebounded the Bulldogs, the second-best rebounding team in the SEC, 46-35. Varnado had 16 points, 13 rebounds and one block but shot 6-of-16.
"I think it's huge for us," UF coach Billy Donovan said of the win. " … Erving Walker less than 36 hours ago makes a game-winning shot, made a lot of big shots, Kenny Boynton made a couple plays coming down the stretch (in a win over Alabama), then all of a sudden offensively they don't play well. Now you can really enjoy and take pleasure at your teammates stepping up and being able to do some of that."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]