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February 5, 2011The post game interview session yielded the usual allotment of star power. Chandler Parsons in one corner, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker in another. Vernon Macklin and Scottie Wilbekin also dropped by.
Alex Tyus? The man of the hour was nowhere to be found outside the locker room. But on the hardwood Florida's senior forward was simply superb down the stretch Saturday evening as the host Gators held off Kentucky 70-68.
Playing before an O'Connell Center record crowd of 12,633, Tyus delivered clutch offense and stingy defense to help No. 23 UF cobble its second consecutive victory over a nationally-ranked club. It was Tyus, who knocked down a jump hook from the baseline; it was Tyus, who stopped Kentucky's two best players when it counted.
"Alex is a great kid," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "He wants to do well."
The St. Louis native scored eight points --- all in the second half. None were bigger than the baby hook from the right short corner that provided the decisive points and a 69-66 lead with 1:11 left.
"That's the Alex Tyus we know," Walker said. "We want him to keep doing that."
But Kentucky was not done. Terrence Jones beat the shot clock with a thunderous dunk. UK (16-6, 4-4) fouled Parsons with 12.7 seconds left, which the set up two free throws. The first toss grazed the front of the rim; the second found nylon to make it 70-68.
Kentucky had one last chance. The Wildcats went to Brandon Knight, who had feasted on Walker's lack of stature much of the game. But Florida countered by putting the taller Boynton on Knight.
The play was a high pick and roll and Boynton got screened. Tyus stepped up for his teammate and got a hand in Knight's face. The play was well defended. Tyus helped on defense, but he didn't over-commit.
The ball bounced off the rim. Boynton got the rebound as the Gators celebrated a win over the nation's No. 10 team.
"End to end, Alex might be the fastest guy on the team," Walker said. "He's tall and athletic. We expect him to guard a Terrence Jones, or for one possession, a Brandon Knight. I think he did a great job."
Kentucky overcame a 13-point second-half deficit with quality 3-point shooting and a strategy that called for the Wildcats' tall backcourt to attack Florida's smallish guards. Walker's four straight free throws gave the Gators a fragile 67-66 lead with just under two minutes left. Jones got the ball and went inside, but Tyus disrupted the shot enough that the ball slid off the rim. Guess who got the rebound? Tyus.
"He played great defense," Macklin said. "That was a huge play. He's playing with a lot of energy and we need him."
Florida (18-5 overall, 7-2 in the SEC) was led by Parsons, who bagged 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and passed for five assists. Boynton chipped in 12 points. Macklin contributed 11 points. Wilbekin came off the bench to tally nine points, two less than his career high, finishing 3-for-3 from the field and 1-for-2 from the line, all in the first half.
Kentucky got 24 points, five rebounds and four assists from Knight, a freshman point guard from Fort Lauderdale.