5 Observations From Tennessee’s 83-69 Win Over Florida

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    Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 2.10.16 PMTennessee (8-6, 1-1 SEC) dominated Florida (9-5, 1-1 SEC) Wednesday night in front of the second-largest crowd of the year in Knoxville (14,387). The Vols jumped out to a huge lead in the first half, and despite a few stretches of sloppy play in the final 20 minutes, UT was still able to cruise to an 83-69 victory – one where the scoreboard really didn’t do a great job indicating the level of dominance for UT.

    Here are five observations from the big win for the Vols:

    1. Best half of the Barnes era: The Vols were simply dominant in the first 20 minutes of the game, setting the tone early and essentially putting the game out of reach before the teams even reached the break. Admiral Schofield hit a jumper 32 seconds into the game and Florida coach Mike White seemed to not like something he saw, forcing him to take one of the earlier timeouts you’ll ever see in college basketball. The Vols put on more steam – hitting 20-of-39 shots in the first half – and taking a 53-31 edge into halftime. “We obviously played the best 20 minutes we have all year,” UT coach Rick Barnes said in his postgame comments. The 53 points were the most the Vols have scored in the first half all season.

    2. Vols find the edge on the boards: Florida came into the game leading the SEC in rebounds (42.6 pr game) and had the clear size advantage against a Vol lineup that went extremely small with Kevin Punter, Devon Baulkman, Robert Hubbs III, Admiral Schofield and Armani Moore. That didn’t stop the Vols from winning on the glass, however. Tennessee held a 49-40 edge in rebounding, with four different players (Punter, Hubbs, Moore, Schofield) collecting at least seven rebounds on the evening. Barnes said it might’ve been the smallest lineup he’s ever started in his career. That didn’t seem to be much of a factor in the end, however.

    3. Gators’ defense doesn’t stop Punter, Vols: Barnes charged Punter, who came into the game as the second-leading scorer in the SEC, to be even more aggressive this week. The senior point guard certainly responded – regularly pushing the ball, working his way into the lane, finding open teammates and not hesitating to take, and make, shots for the Vols against the Gators. Punter finished the night with 26 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting performance with a 3-for-3 effort from beyond the arc and four assists as well. Those numbers are even more impressive against a Florida defense that came into the game giving up an average of just 62 points per game on the year.

    4. Schofield is becoming a threat: One game can be an anomaly. But freshman wing Admiral Schofield proved that his 22-point day at Auburn on Saturday was no fluke on Wednesday night. He had 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while adding eight rebounds. More of a complimentary piece earlier in the season, Schofield is continuing to evolve into one of UT’s primary options. He’s gaining more confidence in his shot, is getting to the rim and his strength allows him to match up with taller post players on the other end to help the Vols when they go with a smaller lineup.

    5. Gray matters: Tennessee was clearly the better basketball team on Wednesday evening – the uniforms and the shoes didn’t have a lot to do with that. But the alternate gray look did seem to give the fans and the team a bit more energy early as Tennessee debuted the Nike version of the Smokey gray uniforms, which were first revealed this summer. After the football team’s’ win over Georgia in football in the alternate gray look, the Nike gray uniforms are certainly leaving a better memory for Tennessee fans than the Adidas version, which saw several big losses in both hoops and football.

    Final stats: