Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators open SEC play with 77-71 win over Mississippi

GAINESVILLE — In the days leading up to Saturday night's game against Ole Miss, Florida senior center Vernon Macklin spent a lot of time hanging out with junior guard Erving Walker. Although Walker needed just 14 points to reach 1,000 for his career, he was much more concerned about how the Gators could earn their first conference win of the season.

"He's a humble kid," Macklin said. "He's just trying to win."

Ultimately, Walker got the victory and the milestone, scoring a team-high 20 points and adding six assists to help Florida (12-3, 1-0 SEC) to a 77-71 win over Mississippi (12-4, 0-1) at the O'Connell Center.

"I really wasn't focused on that," Walker said after the game. "I'm happy about it, but I played a lot of minutes as a freshman, so it came along with the territory. I'm just more proud of the way we played against a good team and we got a big win."

A big win that was earned the hard way. The Gators led 39-28 at halftime after a late scoring frenzy, outscoring Ole Miss 18-7 in the final five minutes of the half.

But at halftime, Florida coach Billy Donovan had a warning for his players. Ole Miss guard Chris Warren, who is the SEC's second-leading scorer, was scoreless. Donovan told his guys that wasn't going to stand and to prepare for a run.

"Everything he said would happen did," Macklin said. "He said Chris Warren hasn't got off in the first half, he's going to go off."

Led by Warren, Ole Miss came out in the second half prepared to rally. The Rebels outscored Florida 23-9 to take a 53-51 lead with 9:51 left. But tied at 61, Walker scored six consecutive points for the Gators to give them a 67-63 lead, and they never trailed again.

"I thought our guys had some resiliency and some resolve as the game's going on, and that's what's going to happen in the SEC," Donovan said. "It's league play right now, everything's a grind, nothing comes easy. … That's what you need to have happen, is guys respond."

Walker wasn't alone in leading the Gators. Three others scored 16 or more, Macklin (16), Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton (17 each). Warren finished with 20 second-half points.

After the game, Donovan said he didn't even mention Walker's accomplishment to the team. That, he said, is for Walker to tell his grandkids. But Donovan didn't skip his praise for Walker.

"One thing I admire about him is he's got a huge heart and great competitiveness," Donovan said. "He doesn't shy away from the competition."

Antonya English can be reached at

UF 77

Ole Miss 71

Florida Gators open SEC play with 77-71 win over Mississippi 01/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 8, 2011 11:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    The Rays open their final roadtrip of the season tonight in Baltimore, and - continuing the theme of the week - willl cross paths with another familiar face, INF Tim Beckham.

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  3. From the archives: Account of famed Riggs-King match heightens Tampa mob intrigue


    With the Sept. 29 opening of "Battle of the Sexes" — the movie starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell about Billie Jean King's landmark 1973 tennis win over Bobby Riggs — we thought there might be renewed interest in this 2013 Peter Jamison story from the Tampa Bay Times.

    Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes."  [Melinda Sue Gordon, Fox Searchlight Pictures]
  4. It's not a game, but the names are all the same in this football family


    TAMPA — A coach yells across the field into a scrum of blue-and-white clad football bodies at Jefferson High: "Kim Mitchell! Kim Mitchell, come here!"

    These twins are not only identical, but they have almost identical names. Kim Mitchell III, left, and Kim Mitchell IV are  talented football players at Jefferson High with Division I-A college offers. Kim  III wears No. 22 and plays cornerback while Kim IV wears No. 11 and plays safety. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  5. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) pumps his fist to the crowd after Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The Bucs play at Minnesota at 1 p.m. Sunday. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times