GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Having dropped three consecutive games to Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee, No. 6 Florida had been waiting for a chance to end the losing streak.
The Gators welcomed it and wanted it - and it showed.
The Gators (17-2, 6-0 SEC) beat the Volunteers for the first time in nearly two years and extended their school record for consecutive home wins to 26.
“We had a little chip on our shoulder because they kicked our butts the last three times,” said Florida center Patric Young, who added 10 points. “I can actually remember each loss, and the last one was the worst because they were on the court celebrating. They punched us, and we didn’t respond well the last three years.
“Tonight, we were so ready for whatever they had to throw at us. We were all locked in.”
Especially on the defensive end.
Florida held the Volunteers (12-7, 3-3) to a season-low in points and shooting percentage (27). The Volunteers’ backcourt really struggled, with leading scorer Jordan McRae, Antonio Barton and Josh Richardson combining to make 2 of 29 shots.
“They turned us over, they sped us up, they did a great job,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. “We forced some shots, but you give that defense credit for doing that.”
Jarnell Stokes led Tennessee with 16 points and 10 rebounds - his 10th double-double of the season.
Stokes kept the Vols in the game early, but faded down the stretch. Jeronne Maymon chipped in eight points and seven boards.
“This is just my observation, but I thought those guys, Stokes and Maymon, were so incredible on the backboard with their effort,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “To offensive rebound and to chase balls like they did, they got worn down, they got tired and rightfully so. Those guys are carrying around a lot of weight and size and strength.”
After Will Yeguete’s dunk and Dorian Finney-Smith’s consecutive layups in transition, the Gators pulled ahead by 17 and looked really in rhythm.
The only thing left at that point was to start making some highlight plays, and boy, they did.