After No. 3 Tennessee fought their way back to earn a 78-67 victory over the Florida Gators on Saturday night, all of the Vols’ players on the court proceeded to do Florida’s “Gator Chomp” toward the crowd in celebration.
Tennessee’s team usually has swagger, but it was surprising to see the entire team do something like that after a win. So what brought on that reaction from the Vols?
According to senior forward Admiral Schofield, that emotion had been building for the entire game thanks to the way Florida fans were treating him and his teammates.
“Their fans were chirping a lot, even behind our bench,” Schofield explained to reporters after the game. “Some things were said from fans that were older fans, not even students. Alumni, maybe. Just disrespectful. Inhumane.
“I won’t repeat what was said. But it’s a basketball game at the end of the day, no matter if it’s Tennessee vs. Florida or Michigan vs. Ohio State. It’s a sport. No one should be called names like that.”
The Vols trailed by as much as seven points in the first half of Saturday’s game and were down by three at halftime. That marked the first time this season that Tennessee had trailed at the half. Then, Florida guard KeVaughn Allen nailed a three to start the second half, extending Florida’s halftime lead to six to start the last half of play.
But after that point, the Vols went on an 8-0 run and grabbed a 43-41 lead. Tennessee wouldn’t give the lead back until another Allen three pulled the Gators ahead by a score of 56-53.
Jordan Bowden would then get fouled on a three, and he made all three of his free throws to tie the game back up. That started a streak of 12-straight points Bowden would score for the Vols, and by the end of his spurt Tennessee had a 65-63 lead.
Florida pulled to within two with 1:25 to play. Then came a dagger from The Admiral.
Schofield drained a three with just over 44 seconds remaining on the clock to put the Vols ahead 72-67, and that would be the death blow to Florida’s upset hopes. The Vols would go on to close out the game on a 9-0 run and finish with an 11-point victory.
According to Schofield, he knew his dagger three was going in as soon as he released it.
“That’s why I started skipping back on the defensive end,” Schofield stated, “because I knew it was going in.”
Tennessee has celebrated some big wins to start the 2018-19 season. The Vols downed then-No. 1 Gonzaga back in December, and they followed that up with a 102-92 victory on the road against a scrappy Memphis squad. Tennessee also decimated Georgia to start SEC play with a 96-50 victory in Knoxville.
But out of all those wins, Schofield said this one was his favorite so far.
“The gator chomp is always my favorite,” Schofield said, “because I never have liked Florida and never will.”
Schofield finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes of play. He had to sit prolonged periods because of foul trouble, but he made one of the biggest shots in the game late in the contest.
The Vols have now won two-straight games against Florida and have won three of the last four meetings between the two schools. Schofield himself is now 3-1 against the Gators in his time as a Vol. In four games against Florida, Schofield is averaging 16.3 points and 8.5 rebounds.