No. 3 Tennessee remained undefeated in SEC play on Saturday night with an impressive road win over the Florida Gators.
The Vols (14-1, 3-0 SEC) went on a 9-0 run over the final 44 seconds of the game to put away the Gators (9-6, 1-2 SEC) to close out their 10th win in a row and to snap a three-game losing streak in Gainesville.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses in the Sunshine state on Saturday for the Vols, however. Florida jumped on Tennessee early, making nine 3’s in the first half. The Gators only made three two-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
Tennessee grabbed a 17-11 lead early in the first half before the 3-point barrage from the Gators began. Though Tennessee shot 48 percent from the field and 55 percent from the 3-point line, Florida led 38-35 thanks to its 3-point success.
Just after halftime, Florida’s KeVaughn Allen drained a three to give the Gators a 41-35 lead. The Vols then went on a 15-4 run to take a 50-45 lead with 14:04 remaining in the game.
That’s when Jordan Bowden took over. The Knoxville native scored 12 consecutive points over a 1:49 stretch to give Tennessee a 65-63 lead with 5:36 to go. Florida would score just four points from that point on, and the Vols finished the game out on a 13-4 run following Bowden’s spurt.
An Admiral Schofield three from the corner with 44 seconds remaining would give Tennessee a five-point lead and close out the Gators.
Here are our biggest observations from Tennessee’s first win in Gainesville since Feb. 11, 2012.
After trailing by as many as seven in the first half, Tennessee never trailed by more than six in the second half – and even that difference was right after halftime. Following Allen’s 3-pointer at the beginning of the second half, Tennessee immediately went on an 8-0 run to lead by two.
After scoring 38 points in the first half thanks to nine three-pointers, Florida scored just 29 points in the second half as Tennessee’s defense turned it up a notch.
The Gators shot 41 percent in the first half before shooting 28 percent in the second half. Florida was 9-of-22 from three to start the game but was just 3-for-10 to close the game. After bringing down 18 first half rebounds, Florida pulled in just 10 in the final frame.
Noah Locke led Florida in the first half, scoring 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three. In the second half, Locke scored just five points on 1-of-4 shooting.
Chase Johnson, Dontay Bassett, and Deaundre Ballard combined for 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting from three in the opening frame but scored just two points on 1-of-2 shooting to close out the game.
For Tennessee, Bowden was the difference from the first half to the second half. After scoring just three points in the first 20 minutes, Bowden scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the second half including 12-straight points for the Vols at one point. He finished the game with 17 points and led Tennessee with two steals.
As a team, Tennessee shot it well in the first half, shooting 48 percent from the field. But in the second half, the Vols shot the ball at an even higher-clip – 57 percent.
Williams led the team in scoring with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He also pulled down nine rebounds, tallied four assists, blocked two shots, and picked up two steals. Schofield added 14 points and eight rebounds.
At one point in the second half, Tennessee didn’t allow a Florida field goal in over six minutes – from 19:08 to 12:49.
It was a minor miracle that Florida only led by three at halftime with the way it was shooting the ball from the 3-point line.
Florida scored 75 percent of its points in the first half off threes. The Gators were 9-of-22 from distance while only making three two-point shots. Five different Florida players made at least one 3-pointer. Allen and Locke were the ones who found the most success, knocking down three of them apiece.
The Gators made 12 three-pointers on the day, tying for the second-most they’ve made all season. Their 32 three-point attempts were also the second-most Florida has shot all season.
But Tennessee weathered the early onslaught and left Gainesville with a win.
The emotions were flying at the end of the game.
Tennessee had just gone on a 9-0 run over the final 44 seconds to pick up its first win in Gainesville since the 2011-12 season, and its players made sure to let the Florida fans know about it.
As soon as the buzzer expired, putting a stamp on Tennessee’s win, several players – Grant Williams, Lamonte Turner, Admiral Schofield, etc. – walked over to the Gator student section and did the Gator Chomp in all of their faces.
Not only did it put a smile on the face of Tennessee fans everywhere, but it was well-earned.
Florida entered the game with the No. 6 scoring defense in the country, allowing just 60.0 points per game. Tennessee hung 78 points on the Gators’ head, the second-most given up all season by Florida.
After winning back-to-back road games, Tennessee returns home to face Arkansas (10-5, 1-2) on Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The Razorbacks are coming off of a 94-88 loss to LSU and lost to Florida 57-51 on Wednesday.