Maybe the Florida Gators' 3-point shooting woes are because the players are too close to the basket. Chandler Parsons' desperation heave from three-quarters court on the final play of the game found nothing but net, enabling the Gators to stun homestanding North Carolina State 62-61 in overtime Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 17,207 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
Prior to Chandler Parsons' unlikely game-winner, the Gators (11-3) were a dismal 2-of-23 from 3-point range.
“It's a crazy situation,” Parsons said in a postgame radio interview with WRUF. “I was truly blessed to knock a shot down like that. Pure luck. Thank God it went in. It's a huge win for us.”
The Wolfpack (10-4) appeared to have the game in hand, up 57-52 with 20 seconds left in overtime, but freshman Kenny Boynton, who had missed his first six 3-point attempts, knocked down an off-balance trey to cut the lead to two with 13 seconds remaining. The Gators immediately fouled on the inbounds pass, but N.C. State's Dennis Horner could only connect on one of two free throws for a 58-55 lead.
The Wolfpack decided not to let UF get off a potential game-tying attempt, fouling UF's Erving Walker with eight ticks left. Walker sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it a one-point game.
N.C. State's Javier Gonzalez, whose tip-in late in regulation forced overtime, sank two free throws with 6.5 seconds left to extend the lead back to three, but Walker was quickly fouled and knocked down both his attempts to make it 60-59 with 3.3 seconds left. UF fouled N.C. State's Farnold Degand with 2.6 seconds on the clock, and he made his first attempt to make it 61-59. But his second attempt bounced off the rim to Parsons, who turned, took two dribbles, then launched his game-winner – estimated between 65 to 75 feet – before being mobbed by his teammates. It was his only field goal of the game.
Junior center Vernon Macklin led the Gators with 14 points and added five rebounds despite sitting out most of the first half with foul trouble. He scored six straight points in the first two minutes of second half to give the Gators a 33-31 lead, their first since an early 11-10 edge.
Walker added 13 points to go with six assists and four steals, and Alex Tyus scored 11 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to help UF to the big non-conference victory.
N.C. State's Tracy Smith, a 6-8 junior, led all scorers with 21 points and just missed a double-double with a game-high nine rebounds. Gonzalez had 19 points and Scott Wood added 12, all on 3-pointers, for the Wolfpack.
UF's biggest lead of the game was four, while N.C. State's was eight. There were 12 lead changes in all, and missed free throws definitely hurt the Wolfpack, who connected on just 10-of-19 from the foul line.
“It was a crazy game,” Gator head coach Billy Donovan said. “I'm really happy for our kids that they could find a way to win the game in a game where we really struggled to shoot the basketball and we just shot the ball so poorly from behind the 3-point line. It's just one of those things where your heart goes out to your kids because they're battling and fighting and just trying to be resilient. I think it was a great lesson for our team. Sometimes a miracle can happen, and today we were given a miracle.”
The Gators only trailed by two at the half, 29-27, thanks to scoring the last six points of the first half after the Wolfpack had gone up by eight, 29-21, with two minutes left before the break on a layup by C.J. Williams. Dan Werner hit a jumper and Parsons drained a pair of free throws to cut the lead to four, and Walker, who was scoreless to that point, hit a pull-up 15-footer with the clock winding down following a Wolfpack turnover to give UF some solid momentum going into halftime.
UF was close in spite of shooting just 34 percent from the field in the opening half, including going 0-for-9 from 3-point range. In addition, Macklin had to sit for the final 10:47 of the half after picking up his second foul guarding Smith, who came into the game averaging 17.2 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, both team-leading marks.
The Gators open SEC play next, traveling to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt Saturday, Jan. 9, with a noon tip-off. The game will be televised by ESPN2.