Florida vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: Gators suffer latest road embarrassment under Todd Golden

By OnlyGators.com Staff
January 16, 2024
Florida vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: Gators suffer latest road embarrassment under Todd Golden

Image Credit: UAA

For the second time in as many road games, the Florida Gators were outclassed by an SEC opponent against which it was supposed to be competitive. Florida fell 83-66 to the No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, Tennessee, dropping to 11-6 (1-3 SEC) after a promising start to the season that created visions of not just a 2024 NCAA Tournament bid but potentially a run into the second week of the event.

Instead, the Gators and head coach Todd Golden must now begin to face the prospect of missing the tournament for the third straight season barring a significant turnaround.

Let’s take a look at what went down on Tuesday night.

It was over when … Dalton Knecht scored five points as point of a 9-0 run to push Tennessee ahead by 19 points with 9:33 to play. Florida trailed by 20 points before a 12-2 run cut that deficit in half, but it almost immediately allowed the Volunteers to jump back on top and put the game out of reach. The deficit went as deep as 22 points midway through the period.

The Gators shot just 30% from the field and 23% from 3-point range, though they did hit 84% of their free throws (21 of 25), matching their second-best mark of the season.

First half focus: After back-and-forth play through the game’s first 6 minutes, Tennessee used an 8-0 run to take an 11-point lead. As Florida went ice cold from the floor, the Vols ballooned that advantage to 17 points, though the Gators were able to cut their deficit to 12 at the break. Florida hit just 29.4% of its baskets in the opening period with sophomore guard Riley Kugel’s 10 points doing a lot of work to keep it afloat on the road. This as it allowed Knecht to score 22 first-half points on 9 of 10 shooting. He finished with 39 points.

Exceptional efforts: No one. Kugel scored just 2 points in the second half and finished 4 of 10. Junior G Walter Clayton Jr. scored a team-high 16 points but hit just 6 of 17 shots. Redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel again dominated the boards with 11 rebounds but went just 3 of 8 from the floor with 10 points.

Odds & ends: Florida fell to 59-81 all-time against Tennessee with a 17-51 mark in Knoxville … the Gators have not defeated UT in the state of Tennessee since 2014, losing eight straight games at Thompson-Boling Arena … UF has not defeated a top-10 team on the road since 2003, losing 18 straight games and falling to 5-65 in such opportunities … Florida is now 4-16 under Golden when trailing at halftime, 1-20 when trailing with 5 minutes left, 1-20 when being outshot from the field and 7-18 when being outshot from downtown

What it means: The Gators are now 4-10 against power-conference competition in true road games under Golden. They are also 2-7 against AP Top 25 opponents overall and 1-5 against top-10 teams. In three road games this season, Florida is 0-3 losing every game by 9+ points and failing to shoot better than 41.3% from the field or 33.3% from beyond the arc. In other words, it is basically noncompetitive.

Couple that with the abhorrent data points above, and the Gators under Golden continue to be a team that can only succeed when starting hot … at home … against competition that is not at the top level of the sport. If you need all of that to go right just to win, what kind of program are you?

Despite Florida being far more talented and balanced than it was in Golden’s first season — when it completed a home upset over then-No. 2 Tennessee — this team gave away a similar game to Kentucky as part of its 1-3 start in SEC play. The Gators only have seven home games remaining this season and likely need to win 10 more games in order to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

With 1.5 seasons under his belt, Golden now deserves to feel the pressure when it comes to Florida’s play. There has been enough time for the team to adapt to his vision and coaching style; unlike last season, there is no excuse of a star player being injured. It simply cannot be acceptable for the Gators to play this poorly with a roster this talented, and missing the tournament would be an abject failure.

Florida has become in a bottom-half team in a conference it used to dominate alongside Kentucky. While other programs have leaned on proven, veteran coaches and high-level recruiting, the Gators are now once again hoping a second hire from outside a power conference can somehow turn the program around. Indications thus far are not positive.

What’s next? Florida will remain on the road for its third game away from home in four contests when it visits Missouri on Saturday. The game will tip off at 8 p.m. ET and air live on ESPNU.

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