No. 3 Florida Gators basketball (22-2, 11-0 SEC) pulled away late in the second half on Tuesday evening to oust the Tennessee Volunteers (16-9, 6-5 SEC) on their home court and pick up a 67-58 win at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN.
The Gators won their 16th-straight game and picked up a victory for the 21st time in their last 22 contests. Florida has also started the season 11-0 in league play and put together the second-best start to a campaign in program history (24-2, 2006-07).
OnlyGators.com breaks it down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when… / Perfect play: Florida senior center Patric Young, chasing down an offensive rebound with his team holding a late six-point lead, laid his entire body out as he dove for the ball, snatching it away from two Tennessee players and tossing it to a teammate before sliding out of bounds. The effort resulted in two free throws for UF, which ultimately held on for the victory. Young only scored six points and eventually fouled out of the game, but five of his six boards came from the offensive glass.
“It was an incredible play, I thought, by him. He sold out,” explained head coach Billy Donovan after the game. “Two guys were in front of him; he ran past [them] and made an incredible save and helped us come with the loose basketball. Really it was an incredible play by him, effort-wise, in the game with four fouls.”
Prominent player: Gators senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin struggled with his shot throughout the game (as well as his decision-making at times) but ultimately led Florida with a career-high 21 points. He made 10-of-12 free throws – going 5-for-6 over the final 51 seconds of the contest – and also contributed six assists and four steals.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Significant stretch: A 5:50 scoreless drought – the Gators committed three turnovers and went 0-for-6 from the field as the Volunteers cut their own deficit to two points – made it look like things would be over in due course for UF. However Florida, which also went 6:58 without a field goal, made up for its lack of offense as sophomore guard Michael Frazier II and Wilbekin drained back-to-back dagger threes to put the Gators up six points with two minutes to play.
“I used to say this with [Joakim] Noah and [Al] Horford: ‘It’s layups and dunks on the break and Lee Humphrey’. [Now] it’s kind of ‘layups and dunks and Michael Frazier.’ If he’s open, I let him shoot it,” said Donovan.
Perfect play II: Midway through the second half, freshman point guard Kasey Hill picked Jeronne Maymon’s pocket in the paint and drove went coast-to-coast, finishing with a reverse layup and trip to the charity stripe. He missed the ensuing free throw, but the overall play was the Gators’ second-most dynamic and exciting of the evening.
Struggling star: Senior forward Casey Prather, three days after many believed he had a resurgent performance after dealing with a nagging ankle injury, failed to live up to the star status he achieved at UF over the first 18 games of the season. Prather grabbed eight boards but finished 2-for-7 with nine points, the third time this season (all in the last four contests) he failed to reach double digits.
Standout stat: The Gators were not at their best shooting the ball on Tuesday, missing 37 shots in the game while going 21-for-58 from the field (.362). However, Florida was able to mitigate their inefficient field goal percentage by shooting at a high rate from the charity stripe. UF made 17-of-22 free throws (.773) and scored its last six points of the game at the line.
What it means: Florida fought off a strong effort from a motivated Tennessee team, sweeping its SEC East rival and earning another tough road victory. The fifth-straight league road win sets a program record for UF. The Gators also improved to 3-2 this season when trailing at halftime and 10-2 in single-digit decisions while earning a big win to start a five-game stretch in which they will play four road games.
Next up: A second-straight road game awaits UF on Saturday. Florida will travel to Lexington, KY to take on No. 13 Kentucky at 9:00 p.m. The game, which will air live on ESPN, is also being featured on the network’s College GameDay broadcast.