The Florida Gators won their fifth-straight game and eighth in their last nine contests with a 81-75 overtime victory against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN, Tuesday evening.
The Gators (13-3, 2-0 SEC), who had all five starters score in double figures and only four points from their bench, held off rally after rally from the Volunteers (10-6, 0-2 SEC) on the way to winning their first overtime game in two tries this season.
Senior forward Alex Tyus, who scored a team-high 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in his best performance of the season. Classmate F Chandler Parsons was equally efficient for Florida, hitting 4-of-5 attempts from downtown and 5-of-7 overall for 16 points.
Down five early, UF used a 10-1 run to take a 19-15 lead thanks to two stellar dimes from freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Tennessee responded with a 14-2 run to take a game-high eight-point lead (29-21) with over five minutes remaining in the half.
Back-to-back threes from Parsons fueled an 11-0 run for the Gators, who held the Volunteers to one basket in the final 5:46 of the half and took a 32-31 lead at the break.
Florida jumped ahead to their own game-high eight-point lead on Parsons’ third trey, though a 7-2 run by Tennessee tied the game at 64 with less than four minutes to go.
Tyus, stepping up to the line for a one-and-one with 42 seconds remaining, missed his free throw and the chance to put UF ahead late in the game. He redeemed himself with a game-saving block on the next possession.
Junior PG Erving Walker received an inbounds pass from Parsons with five seconds left but air-balled a fadeaway three with time running out to send the game into overtime.
The Gators put their foot on the pedal in the extra period, scoring six-straight points to open overtime and using a 9-2 run fueled by a pair of three-pointers by sophomore guard Kenny Boynton to take a 77-70 lead with 45 seconds left. Florida missed three free throws during the stretch but held off five quick points by Tennessee to prevail.
Parsons added six rebounds to his point total, while redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin contributed 11 points and five rebounds as the team’s third frontcourt starter. Boynton and Walker finished with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
UF’s starters scored 77 of the team’s 81 points on Tuesday, but freshman C Patric Young posted a stellar performance with seven rebounds including four off the offensive glass and all four of the Gators’ bench points. Wilbekin added three dimes and three steals, played stellar defense and did not turn the ball over once.
Volunteers Gs Cameron Tatum and Scotty Hopson combined for 41 points on 50 percent shooting with eight total rebounds. Tatum turned the ball over a game-high five times but also handed out four assists. Tennessee also benefited from a strong presence inside the paint as F Tobias Harris accounted for a double-double with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds.
UT was without head coach Bruce Pearl, who was suspended from participating in the first eight Southeastern Conference games of the season after being caught committing numerous recruiting violations.
Florida’s fifth-straight victory set a season-long streak and was their first in Knoxville since 2005. The Gators have scored 71 points or more in each of their last four games after failing to do so in their seven prior contests.
Photo Credit: Wade Payne/Associated Press