GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Erving Walker scored 20 points, Kenny Boynton hit three huge shots down the stretch and Florida beat Mississippi 77-71 Saturday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Chandler Parsons added 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Gators, who won their fourth straight.Vernon Macklin chipped in 16 points and seven boards. But Walker and Boynton carried Florida (12-3) in crunch time.With the game tied at 61, Walker hit a teardrop in the lane, two free throws and a layup following a steal that put Florida ahead 67-63. Then Boynton hit consecutive 3-pointers, one of them a four-point play, and sank an over-the-head bank shot in the lane to make it 76-69 and essentially seal the win with about a minute to play.Chris Warren, Mississippi's leading scorer, was scoreless in the first half. He got hot after the break, scoring 20 points.Reginald Buckner (13), Terrance Henry (12) and Zach Graham (11) also scored in double figures for Mississippi, which has dropped nine of 10 in the series. But the balanced effort wasn't enough for the Rebels (12-4) to overcome Walker and Boynton.Boynton was 6 of 15 and Walker was 6 of 11 from the floor. They also combined for nine assists.The Gators closed out the first half with a 14-2 run that included Parsons' buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the top of the key that put Florida ahead 39-28.Mississippi had more turnovers (seven) than assists (three) in the first half and struggled from behind the arc. The Rebels turned things around after the break, pushing the ball, taking shots before Florida settled into its half-court defense and then burning the Gators from long range. They made five 3-pointers and in the first 10 minutes of the second half and quickly turned the halftime deficit into a two-point lead.Warren, Henry and Trevor Gaskins did most of the damage. Warren scored several different ways, including four 3-pointers. Henry scored inside and Gaskins had consecutive 3s.But Florida settled down, stemmed the momentum swing and then pulled away.The Gators shot 47.5 percent from the floor, including 9 of 18 from behind the arc, had 22 assists and just seven turnovers.Mississippi, which leads the SEC in shooting, hit 47.3 percent. But the Rebels finished with just eight assists against 11 turnovers.