Florida vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: Gators tear through No. 2 Vols in Golden’s signature win

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 1, 2023
Florida vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: Gators tear through No. 2 Vols in Golden’s signature win

Image Credit: Maddie Washburn, UAA

It took more than halfway through his first season leading Florida Gators basketball, but head coach Todd Golden landed a signature victory on Wednesday night. Florida tore apart the visiting No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers, leading for 34:09 in a 67-54 win at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

The victory was the Gators’ sixth over a top-two opponent in program history, and it came in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season. Aside from a scoring drought in the second half, Florida dominated Tennessee for most of the night with momentum fueled by lights-out 3-point shooting in the first half.

Let’s take a look at what went down as the Gators improved to 13-9 on the season with wins in six of their last eight games.

It was over when … Florida ended the game on a 6-0 run as Tennessee missed its last five shots. The Gators boosted their lead to seven early in the second half but saw the Vols chip away with an extended 16-4 scoring stretch over 5 minutes with the hosts going 1 of 8 from the floor over 10:35. Suddenly, Florida trailed by six with a 13-point swing in the second half alone.

However, the Gators turned on the jets over the final quarter of the game, using a 22-5 stretch — redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton scored 10 of 13 points during that run — to take an 11-point lead 2:55 left to play for their largest advantage since 12:54 in the first half.

First half focus: Florida used a 15-0 run shortly after tip off to take a game-high 13 point lead. Tennessee immediately responded with an extended 17-5 scoring stretch to cut its deficit to a pint, but the Gators made the final two baskets of the period to take a six-point lead into the break. Guards redshirt senior Myreon Jones and sophomore Will Richard combined for 12 of Florida’s 27 points in the half, and while UF made 3 of 4 triples to open the period, it netted just 1 of 9 to end it letting UT back into the game.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the second half, making 6 of 13 shots from the field and all eight of his free throws while coming close to a double-double with nine rebounds. Redshirt senior G Kyle Lofton went off in the second half, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the latter period while draining 2 of 3 treys with four boards and four assists. Jones was also solid down the stretch, finishing with nine points while hitting 2 of 4 triples with four dimes and three rebounds.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 59-80 all-time against Tennessee with a 37-25 mark in the O’Dome … UF snapped a three-game losing streak against UT as it was just Florida’s second win over Tennessee since Jan. 7, 2017 … the Gators are now 23-63 all-time against top-five opponents … this is the second straight year Florida has defeated a top-two opponent (Feb. 19, 2022 vs. Auburn), and it was only UF’s second such win against an SEC opponent … the Gators improved to 10-2 when leading at halftime and 13-1 when leading with 5:00 left … it was just Florida’s fifth win when being outrebouned (5-7) and fourth when shooting worse than 45% (4-8)… the Gators are now 12-2 when outshooting their opponent, 7-3 when shooting more free throws and 9-3 when winning bench scoring … Florida did not allow a single fastbreak point, holding a 10-0 margin

sophomore G Kowacie Reeves played just 8 minutes … freshman G Riley Kugel started but made just one basket on four attempts with four points in 24 minutes … Richard finished with nine points and seven boards

What it means: Florida picked up its best win of the season over a Tennessee team ranked No. 2 in the AP Top 25, No. 1 in KenPom and No. 2 in the NET rankings. The Gators also improved to 2-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents and 3-9 against the first two quadrants while sporting a perfect 10-0 record against the latter two. Most impressive was Florida’s play in key moments during which it normally struggles — particularly at the end of halves. The Gators scored the final five points in the opening period and the last six to end the game. While they did suffer another 10-minute shooting drought in the second half, they bounced back with a stellar 22-5 scoring stretch to retake a lost lead. Basically, Florida did everything a good team is supposed to do when facing an opponent of this caliber.

What’s next? It was thought the Gators, given their level of play entering this impossible stretch of schedule, might go winless over a two-week span. Instead, Florida is 1-1 against consecutive top-five opponents going into an extraordinarily tough two-game road trip. It visits Kentucky on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN before remaining on the road next Wednesday against No. 4 Alabama at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. UF has won six of its last eight games, and even splitting the next two would put it in great position. Four of Florida’s final seven games are at home, two against teams it has already defeated and two more against SEC bottom-dweller Vanderbilt.

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