NEW ORLEANS — For Florida seniors Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus, Saturday's 74-71 overtime loss to Butler was a bitter ending to what could be called a Cinderella season for players who spent their first two years in the NIT, then lost in the NCAA first round last season.
In their hearts, they said after the game, they believed they were headed to the Final Four. The loss was made even tougher for Parsons because of his play: the SEC player of the year didn't attempt a shot in overtime or nearly the last four minutes of regulation. His last shot was a missed 3 with 3:52 remaining in regulation.
"It hurts right now, so right now I have a terrible feeling, and I almost feel sick to my stomach," Parsons said as he sat solemnly in the locker room. "But you know, my career is not over. I plan on playing basketball for a long time. So I can't dwell on it my whole life, but it's definitely a disappointing time and a sad time for me because I wanted to keep playing with these guys."
For Macklin, who spent two years at Georgetown before sitting out a year after transferring, he ended with a career game and great memories.
"It's been a great run," he said. "I love my teammates, I love my coaching staff. I'm sad to see it all end right now. But it's been a great time at Florida."
Donovan said his heart was broken for his seniors, but he believes they'll look back on this experience fondly.
" … There will be a time when they'll look back on where they were after the Jacksonville (loss at home) or after the Central Florida (loss) in December, and then they'll see a better picture of how far they came," he said. "And you know, you never want it to end. You want it to keep on going. But … I think that's the price when you try to really become and make a commitment, like they did as a team, to try to get better and improve. For those three guys, it probably hurts more than any loss they've had because it's the last loss of their career."
MISSING IN ACTION: If you're wondering why Macklin, who dominated inside much of the game, wasn't on the floor much of the second half and overtime, it's because he's a liability at the free-throw line: 44.3 percent entering the game. "I would have liked to have utilized Vernon a lot more in the second half, but it was hard because he was in foul trouble," Donovan said. "And then really once we got into overtime at the end of regulation, because of his free-throw situation we had to play (freshman) Patric (Young)."
Macklin didn't disagree: "I'm not that great of a free-throw shooter, so I didn't want to jeopardize my teammates. I think Coach Donovan made a great decision."
ALL TOURNAMENT: Macklin and G Kenny Boynton were named to the All-Tournament team, but Macklin didn't actually get his due. When the team was announced, the public address announcer called him Vernon Maxwell, the controversial Gator standout in the late '80s.
Et cetera: The region final wasn't a huge draw in New Orleans. The announced crowd was 12,139. The arena holds about 19,000. … It was Florida's first loss in five region finals. It advanced to the Final Four in 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2007 … It was Butler's first win in overtime in four tries this season. … UF started the game 12-of-12 from the free-throw line but hit just six of its last 10.