An 11 a.m. start time did nothing to help the No. 13 Florida Gators (12-4, 0-1 SEC) shake off their season-long struggles on the road as the team opened up Southeastern Conference play with a 67-56 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers (8-7, 1-0 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Gators fell to 2-8 in their last 10 contests against the Vols in Knoxville, TN and are now 0-4 in true road games this season including two losses in the last 10 days. UF’s 56 points were a season low and the fewest the team has posted since scoring 54 against Kentucky on March 13, 2011.
Florida got out to a sluggish start and Tennessee held even with them the entire way with the two teams trading the lead for the first few minutes of the game.
Ahead 20-17 after a 5-0 run, the Volunteers lost their advantage when the Gators responded with a 7-1 run of their own to go up three; however, UT answered right back with a 7-2 scoring stretch to jump ahead 28-26.
A three-pointer from junior guard Kenny Boynton gave UF a 29-28 advantage, but Tennessee capped the first half with a 5-0 run including a three by G Trae Golden with five seconds remaining to take a 33-29 lead into the break.
The second half started the same way for Florida with the Gators missing shots, turning the ball over and being taken to the hoop on defense. The Vols began incrementally increasing their lead throughout the half and jumped ahead 15 points with an 8-0 run capped by a trey from G Cameron Tatum.
Tennessee maintained that advantage nearly the rest of the half as Florida was unable to hit a field goal for 8:23, missing 11-straight shots. The Volunteers eventually took a game-high 16-point lead with less than two minutes to play, hanging on for an impressive victory over a ranked opponent.
The Gators shot just 35.7 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from downtown while their opponent was better than 50 percent from both locations. Florida outrebounded Tennessee 37-34 but turned the ball over 15 times and gave up 32 points in the paint. UT’s bench also outscored UF’s 25-1 over the course of the game.
Volunteers forward Kenny Hall and a pair of Gators – Boynton and junior F Erik Murphy – all posted 13 points each. Murphy went 5-for-7 from the field for Florida and had a game-high four blocks, while sophomore center Patric Young and Tennessee F Jeronne Maymon each had a game-high seven rebounds.
Gators freshman G Bradley Beal struggled once again with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting (1-for-5 from downtown) with five boards and five turnovers. Senior point guard Erving Walker was just 3-for-8 from the floor with three turnovers and two assists.
UF will look to rebound from another tough road loss with a home game against rival Georgia on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN.