Florida 56, Tennessee 49
March 15, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
FLORIDA SPORTS RELEASE
FLORIDA 56, TENNESSEE 49
WHAT HAPPENED: Facing their first double-digit deficit since the second game of the season, the No. 1-ranked Gators slapped a smothering defensive effort on the red-hot Volunteers in the second half and rode that aggression to a 25th straight victory Saturday and win in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals. Senior center Patric Young scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin was good for 14 points and four steals. UF used a 7-2 run, keyed by sophomore Michael Frazier II’s lone 3-point make of the afternoon, to retake the lead with less than five minutes to play, then hit key free throws down the stretch -- including two technical free throws, thanks to UT forward Jeronne Maymonn -- to salt the game away.
WHAT IT MEANS: UF has a chance to cap the greatest regular season in program history with just the fourth SEC Tournament title in program history. The Gators won the event three straight years, in 2005, ’06 and ’07, the last two preceding those back-to-back UF national championships. But never before and certainly not since.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Florida defense. After trailing 35-28 at halftime, the Gators slapped a blanket over the Vols after the break. UT, which had scored fewer than 72 points only once during its dominant five-game winning streak, finished with its second-fewest points of the season. What were fewest? That came in a 67-41 loss at Gainesville in January.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: The Gators shot 47.4 percent from the floor, yet scored their fewest points of the season. Why? Just four offensive rebounds, 10-for-17 from free-throw line and 13 turnovers.
SUBPLOT: The Vols came into the season having won the last three meetings, and 13 of the previous 19, against the Gators. Different story this year. Florida beat Tennessee three times in the same season for only the second time in school history. The 2011 Gators, who won the SEC regular-season title, were the others to beat the Vols three times.
UP NEXT: The Gators (31-2) will play either 2-seed Kentucky (23-9) or 3-seed Georgia (19-12) for the tournament title Sunday at 3:15 p.m., then wait to hear their opening-round opponent for next week’s NCAA Tournament. UF is likely the No. 1 seed in the South Region and headed for the Orlando pod.