In a knife fight it’s often the person who loses the least blood that wins and on a night where the game was played in the trenches the Tennessee Volunteers were able to outlast the Florida Gators by the score of 62-57.
Florida showed some gumption in keeping the game tight when things could have fallen off the rails at many points throughout the game but they didn’t quite have enough left in the tank to bring things back. Though he struggled to start the game with several bad misses and an airball Jalen Hudson ended up being the high point man for the Gators with 13 while Chris Chiozza provided some solid production with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Not showing any flashes of brilliance tonight you could look down on the Gators for their lackluster showing but in the same breathe you have to remember that the Gators just lost a game on the road to the #19 ranked team in the country.
This was far from a bad loss, despite how you might feel and the Gators competed hard and never gave up. The Gators now have three tough games remaining in the regular season and will be looking to steal a couple and better their place in the SEC standings as well as their resume for the NCAA Tournament.
It was clear what Tennessee wanted to do to Florida and it was pound the ball down low and post up the smaller, less physical Gators. Grant Williams (23 points) and Admiral Schofield (16 points) both had their way inside and repeatedly fought for deep inside position before confidently finishing around the hoop through contact. Not only did they take advantage of Florida’s depleted front line by going at Egor Koulechov but they played Grant Williams at the small forward position meaning he could post up against Jalen Hudson or Deaundrae Ballard. That meant mismatches all over the floor for the Gators and choosing to take away the three point shot (which the Gators did extremely effectively), it left one-on-one coverage down low that ended up in layups for the Volunteers.
In a first half that almost lulled the home crowd to sleep the Gators were only able to muster up 18 points, their lowest first half point total of the season. Extremely physical at the point of attack as well as inside the Volunteers made things extremely difficult for the Gators to get movement and for them to get into offense. Their only hope at breaking open the game was the three point shot and those looks not falling resulted in a dismal 18 point half.
Battle on the Boards
Tennessee entered the contest with a record of 12-1 in games where they outrebounded their opponent. The Gators actually did a solid job on the glass against the rugged Tennessee frontline and ended up marginally outrebounding the Volunteers 41-37. Not a lot of things went right for the Gators tonight but their ability to compete with the Volunteers on the glass kept this game close and gave the Gators a chance to win.
Florida only had 11 assists tonight with Chris Chiozza chalking up 8 of them while Egor Koulechov, KeVaughn Allen, and Deaundrae Ballard each had one. Though it’s great the Gators have such a great playmaking point guard in Chiozza they need to find some distribution from some other players to help make this offense run. KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov, and (especially) Jalen Hudson have the ball in their hands a great deal on offense and have to find a way to put their teammates in positions to score.
What’s Up Next
The Gators continue their difficult ending to the SEC regular season with a home game against the Auburn Tigers on Saturday, February 24. Auburn has been one of the most interesting stories in all of college basketball this season as the loss of two of their (thought to be) best players to the FBI scandal left many thinking they would be a cellar-dwelling SEC team. Instead, they racked up quality win after quality win and were at one point in the conversation for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A devastating lower leg injury to rim protecting big Anfernee McLemore has left them thinner in their rotation and a bit more vulnerable so hopefully the Gators can take advantage.
What did you think of the Gators’ performance tonight against the Volunteers? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.