Vols look to avenge loss to Gators in home finale


Tennessee was ranked No. 6 in the nation when it suffered its most lopsided loss of the season courtesy of the Florida Gators, 75-49, on Jan. 19 in Gainesville, Fla.

Since then, the Volunteers (16-7, 9-7 SEC) steadily dropped until falling out of the Top 25 this week following a 77-72 loss at Auburn last Saturday.

Tennessee has a chance at some payback on Sunday afternoon when it hosts Florida in Knoxville in each team’s regular season finale.

Florida had four players score in double figures in that first meeting, led by Noah Locke (14 points) and Tyree Appleby (13 points and seven assists). The Volunteers shot 29.3 percent overall and 16.7 percent (3 of 18) from 3-point distance.

The Gators (13-7, 9-6) had won three in a row before suffering a 72-70 loss to Missouri in their home finale on Wednesday night. Dru Smith’s reverse layup off glass with 0.7 seconds to go was the winning bucket as he finished with 17 points and nine assists.

Smith also had a season-high six steals, which contributed to Florida’s 18 turnovers in the game.

Tre Mann continued to spearhead Florida’s efforts with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with three rebounds and three assists. Mann, a 39.3 percent 3-point shooter, only attempted one against Missouri and missed it.

“We didn’t take care of the ball,” Mann said. “They had like 18 points off of our turnovers alone in the first half. So, take away them turnovers, you take away 18 points and the game could have been different.”

Even with Auburn missing star freshman guard Sharife Cooper, Tennessee couldn’t slow down the Tigers and Allen Flanigan, who scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

A pair of freshmen led the Vols as Keon Johnson finished with 23 points and Jaden Springer (team-high 12.8 points per game) had 20 to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Yves Pons also had 10 points and eight rebounds.

“Jaden had been fighting a cold but I thought he and Keon and Yves Pons, all three of those guys did exactly what we’d like them to do,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Other than that, I would say not so much. Whether it was energy or lack of confidence, because when you’re not playing with confidence I think it can drain you a little bit.”

–Field Level Media

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