Tennessee – 54
Florida – 67
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The newly crowned number two Tennessee Volunteers traveled to Gainesville to take on The Gators coming off a huge win over Texas. While Florida isn’t a ranked opponent like The Longhorns, emotions would still be high for this one as it always is in every sport when these two get together.
Florida was up to the challenge early. It was not a good start for Tennessee as The Gators went on a 15-0 run. Zakai Zeigler was benched and nothing seemed to be going well for The Vols. A 9-2 run for Tennessee, engineered by seven straight points from Olivier Nkamhoua, cut the Gator lead to six. Both teams after that went cold for nearly a three-minute stretch. Tennessee got it to within one point and was dominating the offensive glass but couldn’t get over the hump to tie or take the lead. After multiple empty trips down the floor for the Vols and two scores for Florida, The Gators took a six point lead into the half. The Vols didn’t score for the last four minutes of the half. They were in for a rough halftime challenge from Rick Barnes. How they responded early in the second half was going to be crucial.
Zeigler started the half off with a jumper to make it 27-23, and Florida responded with a three ball to extend the lead back out to seven. Then both teams went cold again as these two top ten defenses continued to give the other issues. Tennessee began to wear down The Gators and find a small bit of sunlight and cut the lead to 34-33 with a Julian Philips And-1. The Vols were able to take a 39-38 lead at 12:27 after back-to-back threes from Zeiger. This was their first lead since the first minute of the game. However, just four minutes later The Gators were able to retake the lead 47-46 and this game was far from over. After Tennessee found a way to come back and build a six-point lead, a weaker team could’ve folded against the number two team in the country, but Florida’s fight was commendable. At the 7:25 mark, The Gators found themselves up 49-46 with a Castleton free throw coming that would make it 50-46. Florida would grow the momentum to a 10-0 run with six minutes to go. Tennessee would have to respond once again. With Florida threatening to go up double digits with four minutes to go, Zeigler ended the Tennessee drought with a three ball that could not have come at a better time for The Vols. However, it was still going to have to be a near-perfect final four minutes from Tennessee to complete the late comeback with Florida confident and up six. Two missed threes and two possessions with points from Castleton was not the perfect start. Tennessee continued to miss and Florida continued to hit and grew their lead to ten with two minutes to go. Vescovi stopped the bleeding by drawing a foul on a three-point shot and made all three shots. It was not enough in the end as Tennessee fell 67-54
The Vols started the game looking unready and unorganized on offense and that trend continued for the entirety of the game and eventually cost them. Tennessee shot just 27% from the field.
This is what Tennessee Head Coach, Rick Barnes, had to say post-game via Ben McKee of Govols247 on Twitter:
Rick Barnes: We lost our poise and let the fact that we weren’t making shots impact us. We’ve got to get better offensively. We didn’t execute at all the way we want to. And then had some defensive breakdowns at the worst time.
— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) February 2, 2023
Tennessee’s next game is against Auburn at home at 1:00pm on Saturday.