Gators in Walker's steady hands

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Billy Donovan called out the play he wanted his Gators to run in a 10-point game with less than three minutes remaining.

Point guard Erving Walker, however, didn't like it.

So the senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., changed it up, and instead called a different play -- one that was meant for him to get an open 3-point shot. It worked, and it gave the Gators an insurmountable lead en route to a 76-64 victory over LSU in front of 12,198 at the O'Connell Center on Saturday night.

"He's got a little bit of a killer attitude to him a little bit," Donovan said. "He gets that look on his face sometimes.

"I ran a play and he said, 'No, run this.' So he kind of gets into that mode there. Coaching him for four years, I've got enough confidence and trust in him [to allow him to switch the call]. If I call something and he wants to check it off and run something else, there's something he's seeing, and him being a senior, I trust him when he does that."

Walker's 3-pointer -- which put UF up 73-60 with 2:29 to play -- was the only one he made in six tries. It was also just his third basket of the night and evidence of the kind of confidence he has in himself to take a shot like that after struggling from the floor for much of the night.

And it was a big shot, because LSU scored back-to-back baskets after that. Had Walker missed, UF's lead would have been six points with 1:28 remaining.

"It never really bothered me [to miss shots] but it's just staying aggressive and not letting it affect you, not letting you affect whether you take the next one or not," said Walker, who finished with 12 points. "Tonight I did a good job at that. Tonight I just wanted to keep grinding and keep trying to to get a good, easy shot up, and I was able to do that towards the end of the game."

Walker scored eight of his 12 points in the game's final 3:45. He hit a runner to get UF's lead back to 10 points after LSU (12-7, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) cut it to eight with four minutes remaining, made two free throws, and then hit the 3-pointer.

After Kenny Boynton hit a runner with 1:13 to play, Walker made another free throw to score UF's final point with 43.8 seconds to play.

Until Walker hit his 3-pointer, he was just 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

"Crunch time is his time," said Erik Murphy, who led the 14th-ranked Gators (15-4, 3-1). "That's just like what he thrives on. He knocked down a big 3 for us, got fouled a bunch, hit free throws. I have so much confidence in him, especially down the stretch."

Walker said he wasn't bothered by his poor shooting earlier in the game, but teammate Bradley Beal noticed that Walker was a little miffed that he was a big part of the Gators' poor performance from 3-point range (7-for-21).

"Erv was frustrated in himself," Beal said. "You could see it in his face. And then once he made a free throw I was like, 'Erv just keep playing.' When I was going through the same thing he stepped up to me and said something. It really says a lot about Erv. He has the ability to come back real quick and be able to focus and just being able to take over the game."

Walker also never mentioned that he checked off the play that Donovan originally called. That fact didn't come out until Donovan's post-game comments, which happened about 15 minutes after Walker spoke with the media. Donovan wasn't angry, though.

"I'd rather have someone say that than just sit there and not do anything," Donovan said. "He saw something and felt something in the game that he wanted to run. It was kind of him in a high pick and roll and he just felt like he could get something out of it.

"And he did."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.