Playing without their two primary reserves in a tough road atmosphere, the No. 6/8 Florida Gators (22-5, 12-3 SEC) were dealt an upset at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers (17-10, 9-6 SEC), which took down their rivals 64-58 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN on Tuesday evening.
Tennessee extended its winning streak to six games by defeating a Florida team playing with just six rotation players in an environment in which it now has a record of 5-12 under the helm of head coach Billy Donovan.
Volunteers guard Jordan McRae took advantage of the Gators’ undersized backcourt and posted a game-high 27 points on 9-of-20 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists. UT forward Jarnell Stokes played physical in the post and made the most of UF’s depleted frontcourt as he racked up eight points and a game-high 14 rebounds including six on the offensive glass.
An early 9-0 run for Florida propelled it ahead of Tennessee, and the Gators managed to maintain a lead over the Volunteers for the majority of the first half. However, UT was able to end the first 20 minutes on a 12-3 scoring stretch spurred on by eight-straight points from McRae to take a 35-32 lead into the break.
The teams exchanged leads in the early going of the second half until Tennessee used an 8-0 run to take a six-point lead. The Vols increased their advantage to eight points with as many minutes left in the game and never relented down the stretch.
Gators senior G Kenny Boynton had a chance to cut his team’s deficit to a single point in the waning minutes but missed a wide open three-pointer. He finished 1-of-7 from the field with just two points, one assist and three boards.
Though Boynton faltered in the contest, he played 37 minutes on Tuesday and has accrued 4,379 for his career, moving him past Erving Walker and into first all-time at UF. His seven field goal attempts in the game give him 1,583 for his career – the most in school history; he jumped Stacey Poole in that category.
Redshirt senior G Mike Rosario led Florida with 16 points but did so on 5-of-14 shooting. Junior center Patric Young contributed 15 points (five in the second half) but only five rebounds. Junior F Casey Prather delivered 10 points off the bench, and junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin registered team-highs of eight boards and six assists while scoring eight points.
The Gators fell to 4-3 in their last seven games and 0-4 in contests decided by single digits this season. Florida now holds just a one-game lead on the Alabama in the Southeastern Conference standings. The teams go head-to-head Saturday at noon in Gainesville, FL in a game set to air on ESPN.