(Story will be updated)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Third-ranked Florida pulled away from Tennessee late to post a 67-58 Southeastern Conference victory at Thompson-Boling Arena and extend the Gators’ winning streak to 16 games.
The Vols were within a point with less than four minutes to play, but Florida knocked down a pair of 3-pointers that were the final blow to Tennessee’s upset hopes.
Tennessee fell to 15-9 overall and 6-5 in the SEC. Florida is now 22-2 overall and a perfect 11-0 in the league. The Gators are 5-0 in road SEC games, while every other team has at least two conference road defeats.
Junior Jarnell Stokes had his 14th double-double this season with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jordan McRae tallied 17 and Josh Richardson added 13 for the Vols.
Those two late 3-pointers were nailed the Gators' top two scorers in the game, Scottie Wilbekin (21 points) and Michael Frazier II (11 points)
With the game tied at 44 at the 15 minute mark, Florida went on a 9-2 burst to take a 53-46 lead on a spinning layup by Kasey Hill with 10:30 left in the game. The Vols had several chances to close the deficit, but couldn't convert on the offensive end.
Tennessee missed five field goals and two free throws before Richardson canned a 3-pointer with 6:15 left to bring UT within two at 53-51. The Vols' defensive effort -- a switch to a 1-3-1 zone -- compensated for the lack of offensive production, as Florida had six consecutive scoreless trips on offense.
A Stokes 3-point play with 4:32 brought the Vols within one at 55-54.
Florida was held without a field goal for seven minutes before Frazier ended an 0-of-8 draught on a 3-point field goal with 3:32 left in the game. That returned Florida's lead to two possessions at 58-54.
Wilbekin, who started the second half 0-of-6 from the floor knocked down a dagger 3-pointer with 2:24 left in the game for a 61-54 Gators lead.
Tennessee hit just one basket in the final 4:32.
The Vols led Florida, 34-33 at halftime in a half that saw the Gators take an early eight-point lead only to have the Vols rally back to lead by as many as six. McRae (13) and Stokes (10) combine for 23 points as Tennessee shot 63 percent in the first half. Florida was limited to just 36.4 from the floor.
Tennessee used a 16-4 run, finished by 10 consecutive points to take 32-26 lead with 3:51 left in the half. Antonio Barton connected on a pair of shots after Stokes knocked down three jumpers in a row to give the Vols the six-point lead.
Florida struggled, making just 2-of-13 field goals over an eight-minute span before Prather knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:51 left in the half.
The Vols return to action on Saturday as Tennessee travels to Missouri for the first time since 1984 to take on the Tigers. That game will air on ESPN2 and the Vol Network.
Florida (22-2, 11-0)
Young 3-7 0-0 6, Wilbekin 5-17 10-12 21, Yeguete 2-3 1-1 6, Frazier 4-10 0-0 11, Prather 2-7 4-6 9, Hill 2-6 0-1 4, Finney-Smith 1-6 2-2 4, Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 2-2 0-0 6. Totals 21-58 17-22 67.
Tennessee (15-9, 6-5)
Richardson 5-11 0-0 13, Stokes 7-11 6-10 20, Thompson 0-2 0-0 0, Maymon 1-2 0-1 2, McRae 6-16 3-4 17, Barton 3-6 0-0 6, Moore 0-0 0-2 0, Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 9-17 58.
Halftime – Tennessee 34-33
3-Point Goals – Florida 8-21 (Wilbekin 1-6, Yeguete 1-1, Frazier 3-6, Prather 1-1, Hill 0-2, Finney-Smith 0-3, Walker 2-2), Tennessee 5-14 (Richardson 3-6, McRae 2-6, Barton 0-2)
Fouled Out – Young
Rebounds – Florida 39 (Prather 8), Tennessee 32 (Stokes 11)
Assists – Florida 10 (Wilbekin 6), Tennessee 8 (Barton 3)
Attendance -- 18,009
"That was a hard-fought game and one thing that we talked to our guys about, a couple things - defensively, who does the best job of defending and getting stops. Offensively, take care of the ball the best. I thought we did a great job, I don't think we had any turnovers if I'm not mistaken against the press but we end up with 15 turnovers. I thought we had careless turnovers in the first half. You can't give that type of team leeway or room to make plays or get their heads up. I thought they did a great job keeping their composure and making their plays in a timely fashion. I thought Wilbekin really controlled the tempo down the stretch of the game. Give those guys credit, they did a great job winning the game."
(On leaving Jeronne Maymon in the game)
"I didn't think about taking him out. He was playing hard. He was diving on the floor. He did a tremendous job of battling and competing. There were several times he had the rebound and he did a great job getting a jump. No, I didn't think about taking him out it was just unfortunate. He played extremely hard. Maybe take him out to get him blow but he was the one guy I really thought was battling around the rim. Jarnell was doing a good job of scoring and getting rebounds. I thought Jeronne was the one guy all over the floor and making plays."
(On the matchup with Scottie Wibekin)
"He made plays. I didn't think they did a bad job. I thought a couple times, especially in the second half, I thought he had a transition layup on Darius [Thompson] were Darius didn't do a good job defending him and keeping him in front of him. He's a good ballplayer and you think about trying to put Josh [Richardson] and Armani [Moore] on him and you're giving up some of those other areas. One of those guards has to guard [Casey] Prather or guard [Michael] Frazier on the perimeter so just a tough thing to do but that's just part of it. You've got to defend your position and we knew Wilbekin would be tough but the key was to try and control him, try and corral him and he made the plays. Shot clock down, he made the plays to win the ballgame for his team or keep his team in position."
(On playing a top five team)
"It's tough. I thought it was a tremendous environment. The fans were great but it's tough. We felt like we were ready to win the game. We felt like we did everything to prepare to win the game. Again you've got to take care of the basketball. Against a good team you can't make those type of mistakes in taking care of the basketball, in being careless with the ball. It's part of it. It's a tough thing to deal with but we've got to keep moving."
(On the decision to play Barton over Thompson)
"Yea it was part of it but I thought Antonio [Barton] did a good job attacking that ball screen and that's one of the things we've been doing more of, for him to score attacking that ball screen. I thought he did a great job reading that defense and making plays against that ball screen. I thought he did a little bit better job against Wilbekin or Hill in guarding those guys."
(On being able to answer Florida's scoring)
"It was good. You have to make plays, you have to be aggressive but more than that just telling our guys at the timeout to settle down. You've got the energy and the emotion involved. They're aggressive, they're doubling the post. We've got to make plays, read the defense and more than anything just settle down and relax and make plays because they're a good defensive team. They don't give you a lot of room so you've got to cut hard and make plays - kind of switch some things up offensively. They did a good job making the adjustments.
(On how good that Florida team is)
"Probably the best Florida team since I've been here. As a team, I would put them with a team similar to the team, Kentucky team with Anthony Davis. You don't have the caliber guy of Anthony Davis, but very similar with their defense and approach. They probably don't have the big name so to speak, as far as first round draft picks and all of that, but they've got very talented players. They do a tremendous job of playing together and feeding off of each other."
(On Florida cutting the lead down at halftime)
"Yeah, especially to go up seven or eight at the half, but again those turnovers, the costly turnovers, the way we turned the ball over is just tough. Against a good team, you can't do that. Whether you're at home or on the road, you've got to take care of the ball."
(On letting the game get away from them)
"It's tough, but I mean Florida is a good team and they just finished the game better than us. We just have to bounce back quick."
(On feeling a sense of urgency for the final games)
"Every game we should approach with a sense of urgency. We play Missouri on Saturday and we have to go get this win"
(On making simple turnovers)
"I mean, it happens. You can't dwell on it. In the course of the game when the heat is on small stuff like that tends to happen and just have to look forward"
(On not finishing strong late in the first half, and late in the game)
" I mean, I don't really know whats's happening at times like that, I don't really remember. We just have to sit down at the end of the clock, it's on us."
(On how Scottie Wilbekin finished the game)
" I mean, he is a great game manager and a really good point guard, and we just had a tough time containing him"
Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan
(On Patric Young's rebound late in the game)
"It was an incredible play, I thought, by him. He sold out, two guys were in front of him and he ran past and made an incredible save to come up with the loose basketball and they had to foul. It was an incredible play by him just effort-wise with four fouls. The end there, there was a lot of time that was taken off the clock because of our offensive rebounding. They got spread out a few times because we opened up the floor for Scottie (Wilbekin). When he got down the lane, it opened those guys up to make some plays. Those three possessions took a lot of time out of the end of the game."
(On Scottie Wilbekin)
"I thought he was great tonight all the way around, he did really, really well."
(On Tennessee's first half)
"Being in the league as long as I have, Tennessee teams have always been really talented, I knew they were going to shoot the ball well. We wanted them to shoot the ball on our terms, so to speak. I thought McRae made two really tough shots. One was not defended well by us, but it was a tough shot by him. He made some tough runners. I was really encouraged going into the half. We shot 36% from the field, they shot 62% and we were down by one. That's generally a recipe for being down 20-15 and you're in a real hole. We kind of dug ourselves out of a six-point deficit and cut it to one. I thought a lot of the shots they made in the first half, those shots didn't go down in the second half. I thought we made it a lot more difficult McRae. Some of the shots he hit in the first half just didn't go down. The difference was what we did defensively, just the numbers there."
(On the defense in the second half)
"I think what happens is, one of the things is we didn't press a lot in the first half and the game got kind of stagnant. They're going to play Stokes and Maymon a lot of minutes and, for us, we wanted a game going up and down the floor, get into a racing game, and I thought we pressed most of the second half. We didn't turn them over, but we were disruptive in terms of flow and had them playing with a shorter shot clock. I just think that's what happens when you play a lot of minutes like that, where maybe the same shot you're making when you're amped up and excited and they don't go in later in the game."
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)