Gators lose at the wire
Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Florida junior forward Alex Tyus said the ball felt good coming off his hand.
1. Can Florida stay with Tennessee early and keep the crowd from becoming a factor?
Florida kept the crowd quiet early, jumping to a 34-28 halftime lead. But the Gators couldn't sustain the momentum for the full 40 minutes. Florida was held to just six points through the first seven-plus minutes of the second half, allowing the Vols to regain the lead and get the crowd back into the game.
2. How well can the Gators contain Tennessee center Wayne Chism?
Chism had just five points in the first half but was the key to Tennessee's turnaround. The 6-foot-9, 246 pound center from Tennessee wound up with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season. Chism also hit two big free throws with 41.7 seconds left to put the Vols ahead 59-57.
3. Can Florida break Tennessee's press and score easy points in transition?
Tennessee didn't press much but pressured the basketball plenty, forcing 17 Florida turnovers. The Gators turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, which allowed the Vols to stay in the game.
Go to Gatorsports.com after the game to read Kevin Brockway's answers.
Tyus had the right angle and an open path to the basket the closing seconds of a wild ending between Florida and Tennessee. But his bank shot with 2.5 seconds spun out of the rim.
Karma may have played a role in Florida's 61-60 loss to the No. 14 Vols at Thompson Boling Arena. But so did Florida's inability to take care of the ball and keep Tennessee off the offensive glass in the second half. Florida finished the game with 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 27-12 in the final 20 minutes.
"We just need to learn how to play a full game," Tyus said.
When Tennessee forward Scotty Hopson grabbed the rebound off the Tyus miss and dribbled to run out the clock, Florida (15-6, 4-3 SEC) had its four-game win streak snapped and dropped to 1-8 in its last nine meetings against the Vols.
"It's frustrating losing, especially a road game," Tyus said. "You have to think about it all the way back to Gainesville. Hopefully, we just get back to practice and get better."
Looking to end a four-game losing streak at Thompson Boling Arena, Florida led by as many as 10 points in the first half and 34-28 at halftime. But the Gators failed to hold a halftime lead for the first time since Jan. 9 at Vanderbilt. Hopson provided the dagger, a 19-footer with 16 seconds left over the outstretched hand of Chandler Parsons to put the Vols ahead 61-60.
In Florida's final possession, point guard Erving Walker raced the ball up the court and with two defenders in the air found Tyus open on a pick and roll play. Tyus said he wasn't sure how much time was left on the clock and in retrospect said he may have rushed it instead of taking the ball stronger to the rim.
"It just kind of trickled out," Tyus said. "I think we just have to realize why we won or lost the game. You can't put it on just one shot."
It was another game when Florida junior Chandler Parsons played the role of captain clutch. Parsons scored Florida's final seven points, including a 3-pointer with 27.1 seconds that put the Gators ahead 60-59.
Off a time out, Florida coach Billy Donovan switched his team into a zone defense. And Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl told Hopson in the huddle to win the game.
"Yes, sir," Hopson replied.
Donovan said he was concerned about the ball going inside to Tennessee senior center Wayne Chism, who led the Vols (16-4, 4-2 SEC) with 16 points and 11 rebounds. J.P. Prince added 12 points and Hopson scored 10 points.
"They were really posting up Chism and I didn't want to give up anything easy," Donovan said. "I think in a lot of respects defensively we did a pretty good job. You have to give Hopson credit. I've been on the end of two of those shots, one from 75-feet (to beat North Carolina State) and then one last weekend against South Carolina in a crucial situation. And Hopson really knocked down a big-time shot."
Tyus led Florida with 18 points and Parsons added 14 points and eight rebounds. But Tennessee's gameplan to rattle Walker and Florida freshman guard Kenny Boynton worked. Walker, who came into the game 23 for his last 37 points from 3-point range, scored just nine points on 1 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc. Walker also finished with a season-high six turnovers.
"Erving could have taken care of the ball a little bit better," Donovan said. "He had six turnovers and a lot of them were unforced. But they did a good job pressuring him."
Boynton was held to four points on 2-of-11 shooting and 0-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
"We were fortunate their guards missed some open shots," Pearl said.
Florida shot 57.7 percent from the floor and outrebounded Tennessee 20-14 in the first half to build a 34-28 halftime lead. That's when Tennessee, in danger of losing its third straight, turned up its defensive intensity. The Vols held Florida to just six points through the first seven-plus minutes of the second half.
"We didn't have that edge in the second half," Parsons said. "We weren't competing as hard as we were in the first half. We didn't allow as many offensive rebounds in the first half, which ended up biting us."
Skylar McBee gave Tennessee its first lead of the second half, 42-40, on a 3-pointer with 12:17 remaining. McBee hit another big 3-pointer with 6:09 left to put the Vols up 50-48.
Florida, meanwhile, went cold, missing its first nine 3-point attempts in the second half. Overall, Florida finished 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the second half and 4-for-16 (25 percent) in the game.
"We didn't do a great job executing like we needed to," Donovan said. "I thought in the first half we were pretty crisp, pretty sharp. We were over 50 pct from the field we were 3-6 from the 3-point line. I think one of the things that really offset things was our shooting."
As a result, Florida will enter February back on the NCAA Tournament bubble for the third straight season.
"Whether it's embracing success or bouncing back from a loss, it's a long SEC schedule," Donovan said. "The back end of this week is going to be hard, playing on the road at Alabama and then turn around and play home Saturday in a one o'clock game at Miss State. We've got to bounce back."
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