Florida at Tennessee score, takeaways: Short-handed Gators again fall apart in second half

By Adam Silverstein
January 26, 2022
Florida at Tennessee score, takeaways: Short-handed Gators again fall apart in second half
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

The most consistent trait of Florida Gators basketball is its inability to close out games. Despite being short-handed and at one point being down three key players, Florida nevertheless saw an eight-point halftime advantage disappear as it was outscored heavily in the latter period to fall 78-71 to the No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers on Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The loss dropped the Gators to 0-4 against SEC teams ranked among the AP Top 25 since conference play began. Florida is now 3-5 in league action on the season and reeling just one week after it appeared the program had turned a corner with three consecutive impressive victories.

While Monday’s loss at Ole Miss was devastating for head coach Mike White’s prospects of keeping his job, Wednesday’s defeat was a bit more understandable given the adversity that UF faced both in terms of its roster and the officiating that seemed exceptionally one-sided. Nevertheless, a loss is a loss, and the Gators took a difficult one at an inopportune time.

What went down on Wednesday night? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … Tennessee made eight straight free throws over the final minute despite Florida’s last-ditch attempt to cut into a significant deficit. The Volunteers opened the second half on an extended 27-13 stretch, turning an eight-point deficit into a six-point lead over a span of 11:29. Though the teams did start trading baskets, the Gators never got closer than three points over the duration of the game with the Vols answering every basket or set of free throws with a score.

First half focus: Florida was lights out from long range, hitting 7 of 16 attempts from downtown as it jumped out to a 42-34 lead at the break. The Gators had a 15-0 run to lead by 13 with 11:58 left in the opening period, but the hosts answered with an 11-0 stretch and traded hoops over the duration of the first 20 minutes. That hot shooting start for UF did not last as it went 3 of 17 from long range in the second half.

Exceptional efforts: None. While seniors point guard Tyree Appleby and forward Anthony Duruji each posted a team-high 16 points with Appleby adding seven assists and Duruji grabbing seven rebounds, the pair was extremely careless with the ball. They combined for an astounding 11 turnovers, 84.6% of the team total (13) with nine of those 11 coming in the second half. As much as Appleby and Duruji kept Florida in the game, they took the visitors out of it over the latter portion of the contest. Duruji also fouled out.

Odds and ends: Guards redshirt senior Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and senior Myreon Jones combined for 22 points, five dimes and four boards but shot just 2 of 11 from downtown … Florida was outrebounded 34-24 but somehow led paint scoring 28-20 despite being down numerous frontcourt players … the Gators fell to 58-80 all-time against the Vols with a 17-50 mark in Knoxville and 2-8 record under White … Florida is now 35-55 when allowing 70+ points and 112-55 when scoring 70+ points under White

What it means: While the Gators did give up a significant lead after a hot-shooting performance in the first half, this was one of the program’s more understandable losses despite their advantage over the first 20 minutes. Florida was down senior F Colin Castleton for the third straight game, entered with junior F CJ Felder ruled out (he played 3 minutes for some reason) and lost junior center Jason Jitoboh after 14 minutes. There was also some extremely questionable officiating to the point that the ESPN2 commentary team pointed out the obvious lack of obvious calls against Tennessee. (UF’s foul margin was only 19-16, but the Vols committed far more than were called.) Additionally, it was the team’s third game in five days and second straight on the road. That’s a lot of adversity.

Nevertheless, it was the Gators’ fourth straight loss to a ranked SEC team, and they are now 3-7 against their last 10 Power Five opponents. If White’s seat is not hot, it’s about time Florida fans start asking why.

What’s next: Florida actually gets a couple days off for a change before it hosts Oklahoma State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on ESPN2.

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