Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators go ice cold as Tennessee storms back

By Adam Silverstein
March 7, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators go ice cold as Tennessee storms back
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Faced with a second straight opportunity to clinch a double bye in the 2021 SEC Tournament, the Florida Gators once again came up short. However, this time, the Gators blew a double-digit lead and were completely outworked in the second half. Florida (13-8, 9-7 SEC) dropped its second straight game to end the regular season, falling 65-54 against the Tennessee Volunteers (17-7, 10-7 SEC) on Sunday afternoon.

With the loss, the Vols assume the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament, earning a double bye at the start of the event. The Gators will fall back to the No. 5 seed, losing a key advantage in the postseason competition. While Florida was short-handed on Sunday, it was clear that the visitors were simply out-efforted in the game.

What went down and what did we learn from the regular-season finale? Keep on reading for Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … junior guard Noah Locke drove to the hoop for what appeared to be a wide-open layup. Instead of the ball finding its home in the hoop, Yves Pons flew in and rejected Locke’s shot with authority, leading to a fastbreak dunk to put the Vols up nine with five minutes to play, staving off a potential Gators comeback. Tennessee went up by 11 moments later, its largest lead of the game, which it reestablished before the final buzzer.

After a slow start by both teams, Florida led by as many as 13 points with 3:57 until halftime. Instead of pouring it on, UF went scoreless over the remainder of the period, allowing an 8-0 UT run so the hosts could pull within five going into the locker rooms. That became an extended 33-10 scoring stretch spanning halftime, putting the Vols ahead by 10 with eight minutes to play as the Gators made just 5 of 20 field goals in that span.

Untimely absence: Sophomore point guard Tre Mann, who has been averaging 20.3 points (on 66.6% shooting) and eight boards over the last three games, was ruled out minutes before tip off with a migraine. The Gators were down two starters in their prior meeting with the Volunteers on Jan. 19 but won that game 75-49.

Exceptional efforts: Junior PG Tyree Appleby tried his best to serve as Florida’s primary floor general, scoring a team-high 19 points on 7 of 14 shooting. Asking Appleby to step up on short notice was a tough task, but he did an admirable job, largely taking care of the ball and leading efficiently from his spot. Unfortunately, Appleby and the Gators did not have a second player step up in a major way. Sophomore third-string PG Ques Glover, who was supposed to spell Appleby, was abhorrent with five turnovers in 11 minutes and benched for the majority of the second half.

Odds and ends: Florida is now 58-78 all-time against Tennessee, 2-7 under head coach Mike White … the Gators are 0-5 scoring 69 points or fewer this season … this is UF’s first loss allowing less than 70 points this season (7-1) … Florida is now 0-7 this season when shooting worse than 43% from the field … UT outshot UF 62-48 in the game and 33-19 in the second half; it also dominated the boards 38-29 (18-9 offensive) … Florida scored a season-low 54 points for the game and season-low 21 points for a half … the Gators did not make a three-pointer in the second half, finishing 3 of 13 for the game

What it means / what’s next: With the loss, Florida drops an extra day of preparation and must play an additional game in the SEC Tournament. It will face the winner of the play-in game between No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 13 Vanderbilt on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET on SEC Network. The Gators are 2-0 this season against the Commodores, winning by an average of 9.5 points, while their lone scheduled game against the Aggies was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.

Florida has been steadily trending down in bracketology projections, losing consecutive games after winning three straight and looking like it might close the regular season strong. However, the Tennessee defeat is a more-respectable Quadrant I loss that drops the UF to 5-4 in such games this season. The Gators are now projected to be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament and could fall further with an early departure from the SEC Tournament.

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