The No. 6 Florida Gators (17-2, 6-0 SEC) blew out the Tennessee Volunteers (12-7, 3-3 SEC) on Saturday afternoon, snapping a three-game losing skid to their rivals while rolling to a 67-41 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida won its 26th-straight home game (second-longest streak in the nation) and 12th in a row against a Southeastern Conference opponent, defeating Tennessee for the first time in nearly three full years (March 11, 2011).
The Gators won their 11th-straight game and picked up a win for the 16th time in their last 17 contests. OnlyGators.com breaks it down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: With 10:49 remaining, Tennessee fouled Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, putting the Gators in the bonus for the remainder of the contest. UF extended its lead to 23 points after Frazier’s two made free throws and went up a game-high 32 before the final buzzer sounded.
Prominent players: Frazier and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin both made the difference for Florida on Saturday, leading their team in scoring with 17 and 13 points, respectively. Both players were sparks for major runs that helped create and extend the Gators’ big advantage (see below) while playing with level heads throughout the contest. Frazier was more effective driving to the hoop than usual with one of his moves into the lane creating a great play for a teammate (see below).
“A couple times today he did a good job of attacking and not just shooting, which we know he does very well. He did a good job attacking and finding people,” said Wilbekin about Frazier. Added Frazier: “Coach told me that I can use my shot fake to make plays for my teammates. Any time I can do that is a good thing for out team. … I don’t want to be a one-dimensional guy because then teams can take me out of the game.”
Significant stretch: The Gators outscored the Vols 16-4 to open the second half with Frazier burying two threes to help put UF up 19 points with 13 minutes remaining. UT was simply never able to recover…or even keep it that close.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
First half focus: Trailing by one in the early going, Florida went off on a 13-3 run – including seven points from Wilbekin – to take a 26-17 lead with 3:47 left in the first half. Tennessee did not hit a field goal for 8:47 in the opening 20 minutes; all three of its points in that stretch came on free throws. UF failed to score again before the break but still took a seven-point advantage into the locker rooms.
Perfect plays: Gators senior center Patric Young was responsible for two electric plays on Saturday. 1) Early in the first half, after fighting with three defenders for an offensive rebound, Young drove the baseline and crossed under the basket before scoring with a one-handed reverse layup. The make broke a tie and gave Florida an 11-9 lead with 13:11 remaining in the opening half. 2) With 6:06 left and the Gators already leading by 20, Frazier drove to the free throw line before lobbing a pass to Young, who grabbed it with his right hand and slammed it down with authority to complete a highlight alley-oop. Young finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and a steal.
“We had a little chip on our shoulder because they kicked our butts the last three times – they didn’t just beat us,” said Young. “It felt really good to win. … We were all locked in, definitely wanted to win this game, wanted to win the game more than they did.”
Standout stat: As well as the Gators played defense – and they certainly did just that – the Vols suffered through a horrid shooting performance that was not mitigated by their offensive rebounding talent. UT hit just 26.8 percent of its field goals on Saturday, going through long stretches without makes and never putting scoring pressure on UF despite grabbing 16 boards from the offensive glass.
“[Saturday night], I thought we played closer to our identity and our potential on the defensive end of the floor,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “It was encouraging to me to see our guys come out with that kind of focus.”
What it means: Running through a talented and well-coached Tennessee team, Florida passed another tough test – this time, extremely short rest – with flying colors. The Gators dominated their SEC East rivals and handed Donovan his first victory over Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin in four meetings.
Next up: Florida has four days off before it hits the road for the third time in the last four games to face Mississippi State on Thursday in Starkville, MS. UF has another Thursday-Saturday turnaround next weekend as it returns home to host Texas A&M two days later.