Tennessee flexed their muscles at home in front of a sold out Thompson-Boling Arena crowd. And Vol fans were decked out in their best orange and white for a “Checker TBA” game to boot.
The Vols rewarded the checkered Thompson-Boling Arena crowd with a resounding 73-61 victory over Florida on Saturday afternoon, marking the Vols’ 18th-straight win on the season.
The No. 1 Vols (22-1, 10-0 SEC) trailed for nearly the first four and a half minutes of the game against Florida (12-11, 4-6 SEC), and the Gators held an 8-5 lead after four minutes of play.
Then, Tennessee went on a 17-3 run to grab a 22-11 lead, and that’s about all they needed.
The Gators would fight back near the end of the first half after some inefficient play by the Vols, and UT’s lead was just 36-30 at halftime. Florida would cut Tennessee’s lead even closer early in the second half, pulling to within four in the first three minutes of the second half, making it a 40-36 game.
But the Vols were apparently just toying with the Gators.
After the Gators drew to within four, Tennessee went on a 12-2 run to grab a 14-point lead with 12:19 to go in the game, and they would keep Florida at arm’s length the rest of the game.
Here are our five biggest observations from the Vols’ 12-point win over the Gators.
Overcoming Some Sloppiness
Tennessee didn’t play their most efficient game on the season, and they still won by 12 points against a good defensive team.
The Vols committed 13 turnovers in the game, and Jordan Bone had an uncharacteristically sloppy afternoon. Bone scored 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting and had five assists, but he turned the ball over four times. That was the most turnovers he’s had in a game since he had four against West Virginia two weeks ago.
Not only that, but the Vols got out-rebounded 33-31 overall, and they allowed Florida to bring down a ton of offensive rebounds. The Gators totaled 15 offensive boards, while Tennessee only had six.
Florida has six steals and five blocks on the afternoon as well.
Tennessee made up for their sloppy efforts in other areas by shooting an impressive clip in the game, though. The Vols made 52.8 percent of their shots in the game, including making 59.3 percent of their attempts in the second half.
Better Perimeter Defense
The Vols did a better job defending the three against Missouri in their last game, but before that contest they had been getting torn up from distance. Teams had been shooting nearly 40 percent from three in the Vols’ previous seven games before that match-up.
Against the Gators, Tennessee was able to not let the three beat them or keep the game too close.
Florida was just 8-of-26 from three in the game, giving them a 30.8 percent shooting percentage from behind the three-point line. Freshmen guards Noah Locke and KeVaughn Allen were the only two Gators who were connecting from deep consistently. Those two combined to make all eight of Florida’s threes, and they were a combined 8-of-13 from three.
The rest of Florida’s team was 0-of-13 from distance.
Tennessee, meanwhile, was 6-of-14 from three on the game. Lamonte Turner missed his first three three-pointer attempts, but he finished the game making his last three deep shots. Jordan Bowden was 2-of-3 from three, and Admiral Schofield hit one of his two three-pointers.
Domination Down Low
The one area that Tennessee truly dominated Florida on Saturday was down in the paint. The Vols exercised their physicality against the Gators, and that’s how they pulled away.
Tennessee out-scored Florida 36-22 in the paint, and many of those points came on dunks.
The Vols had five dunks on the afternoon, and Admiral Schofield had two of them. And both of his brought down the house and made Thompson-Boling erupt. Jordan Bowden had an alley-oop slam on a perfect Jordan Bone pass, and Kyle Alexander had a jam as well.
Grant Williams didn’t have as many highlight plays as his teammates, but he finished with a team-high 16 points and pulled down six rebounds. Schofield had 14 points and six rebounds
A Season Sweep
With the victory, Tennessee completed the regular season sweep of the Gators.
The Vols took down Florida on the road in Gainesville earlier this season, pulling away in the final minute to secure a 78-67 win. That game was close for almost the entire contest, and it wasn’t until the closing minute that Tennessee was finally able to get some breathing room.
In this game, the Vols trailed early, but they had control for the vast majority of the contest.
Tennessee has now won three-straight games against the Gators, and they’ve won their last three games against Florida in Knoxville.
Yes, More History
This season has been full of history-making games for the Vols. And they made some more history on Saturday, this time for their head coach.
Tennessee’s win over Florida gave them 18-straight wins on the season. That extended the longest winning streak in school history, but it also gave Rick Barnes the longest winning streak in his 32-year coaching career. He led Texas to a 17-0 record to start the 2009-10 season, and that was the best winning streak he had ever been a part of till this season.
The win also gave the Vols a 10-0 start to SEC play, their best start in the conference in over 40 years.