Early this season, I predicted that the true test of Vernon Macklin would come against Miss St.'s Jarvis Varnado. Today in the O'Connell center, Macklin proved himself numerous times around the rim, scoring 20 points (career-high) and neutralizing the notorious shotblocker Varnado.
Last March in Starkville, the Gators fell to the Bulldogs during the infamous late season collapse. In that game, Varnado posted a double-double and Alex Tyus was dominated on the glass. However, in today's battle, Macklin stood strong, allowing Tyus and Parsons to help out and scoop rebounds.
Coming out of halftime, Macklin scored ten straight points, sending the Gators ahead by around ten points for most of the second half. UF led by 12 with less than two minutes left, but after a few crucial turnovers and State 3-pointers, the lead dwindled to just four. But the Gators were able to make their free-throws and seal the victory, 69-62.
The Gators hustled to loose balls, blocked shots and forced turnovers. But in the first half, UF struggled to score, and I thought Macklin was forcing too many obscenely-difficult sky hooks. He is very good at that shot, but sometimes he may dip into the proverbially well a few too many times. Another step in his development may include a few more varied post maneuvers to create uncertainty in the defense.
The rest of the squad played well. Erving Walker made a few important threes and it seemed like he was able to dribble between Varnado's legs for a few layups. I think Chandler Parsons is playing more aggressively as of late, possibly due to a surge in confidence after his recent late game heroics. I know I can be mildly bipolar about Dan Werner, but today he looked particularly bad, and I saw him walking down the floor numerous times. Of course he hesitated on a few long shots and bricked the front rim on his only deep attempt. I like to see Chandler Parsons starting in his place.
Now the Gators are 17-6 and are 6-3 in conference. While technically still in the SEC east hunt, UF at least stands poised to nab a spot in the NCAA tournament, barring a late season collapse and assuming they can pick up a few more impressive wins.
Another major test occurs this Tuesday in South Carolina, as the Gators will face off against Devan Downey in what has become a heated rivalry as of late. Notice I said Devan Downey and not the Gamecocks, because the guard is scoring more than 40% of USC's points this season.
Game Notes: The fan-favourite ''Mr. Trombone Man'' was not in attendance at this game. If anyone knows his whereabouts, post as a comment. It worried me a bit to not see him out there holding a rubber chicken and dancing to ''You Can Call Me Al''. He's a very large man, the health concerns are rampant.
You could view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl