Florida basketball score, takeaways: Down three starters, Gators blow out No. 6 Tennessee

By Jake Winderman
January 19, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Down three starters, Gators blow out No. 6 Tennessee

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

In the most unlikely of circumstances, Florida Gators basketball secured a 75-49 upset win over the No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. This despite Florida being without a pair of starters in junior center Colin Castleton and sophomore forward Scottie Lewis while junior F Keyontae Johnson remains sidelined.

The Gators snapped losing streak vs. the Volunteers, securing their first win in the series since 2017. It also tied Florida’s largest win over an AP Top 25 team under head coach Mike White and the second straight year it upset a top 10 team by 22+ points, doing so just 367 days apart.

How did the Gators pull off a shorthanded victory? Check out our Fastbreak takeaways from Florida-Tennessee for a full breakdown.

It was over when … Florida went on a 13-0 run, capped by a Tyree Appleby lay-in with 6:27 remaining, to take a 68-44 lead. The Gators maintained a double-digit lead from the 17:16 mark of the second half until the final buzzer and held the Vols to multiple stretches in the second half without a bucket. UF ended the game on an extended 20-5 scoring stretch as UT went 1 of 11 from the field without a basket over the final 5:26 of the game.

First half focus: Defense was, undoubtedly, the key to the first half and the game. The Gators held the Vols to just 27 points during the first 20 minutes, limiting Tennessee to 28% shooting from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. The Vols’ 27 points were the fewest allowed during a first half of SEC play this season by the Gators.

Along with its rock-solid defense, Florida bounced back from an extremely poor performance on the glass against Mississippi State with a 27-15 rebounding advantage against Tennessee heading into halftime. it had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half, led by five from sophomore F Omar Payne. UF posted an efficient 1.19 points per possession during the opening frame.

Exceptional efforts: No Florida player generated more offense on than Appleby. The junior point guard finished with 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals on 5 of 9 shooting. He again showed a propensity for getting out in transition and was a major factor in UF’s 14-4 advantage on the fastbreak. Despite finishing short of his second career double-double, Payne had to be pleased. The Gators’ backup five was thrust into a starting role with Castleton out and delivered an efficient all-around performance on both ends with nine points, nine boards (five offensive) and a career-high five blocks. This just over a year after going for 19 points and 11 boards in another big UF upset (more on that later).

Sophomore PGs Tre Mann and Ques Glover combined to score 22 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Mann had four rebounds and three dimes, while Glover posted three steals in just 14 minutes, providing a burst of energy as a reserve. He was a big reason Florida was able to outscore Tennessee 22-9 off the bench.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 58-77 all-time against Tennessee, 36-25 in the O’Dome and just 2-6 under White … the Gators’ 26-point win is tied for the biggest in program history over an AP Top 10 team, while also tying for the biggest over an AP Top 25 team under White … White improves to 5-13 vs. AP Top 10 teams and 16-29 vs. AP Top 25 teams … Florida is 6-0 when scoring 72+ points this season … UF blasted UT 42-22 in the paint, posted 27 points off turnovers, won fastbreak scoring 14-4 and dominated the boards 44-36 … Florida led for 38:21 of the 40-minute game … junior guard Noah Locke broke out of his slump with 14 points but still struggled making just 2 of 6 threes

What it means: Despite several impressive individual performances, Florida’s team defense got the job done. The Gators held the Vols to 29% from the field and 17% from three, forcing 18 turnovers. Seven Florida players had at least one steal. With Johnson sidelined indefinitely and an inconsistent offense, it is here where the Gators can make a difference each game. Constant pressure and strong defensive effort can win a lot of contests in the SEC. Florida had every reason in the world to lay a midweek dud considering the slide it’s been on recently. If the Gators came out and fell flat, nobody would’ve been surprised. Instead, they posted their best defensive performance during SEC play.

This is the type of fire Florida is going to have to display to beat good teams with Johnson out. While UF might not always have the more talented or experienced team, it can overcome those deficiencies with tenacity on the glass and exceptional effort on defense like it did Tuesday night.

What’s next? Florida will get three days off before hitting the road to face Georgia on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. UGA will host Kentucky on Wednesday and is currently 1-4 in SEC play.

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