FLORIDA 83, TENNESSEE 70

Allen, Gators handle Vols

Gators ride red-hot final 20 minutes to fifth consecutive win


Florida guard KeVaughn Allen (5) goes up for a shot over Tennessee forward Grant Williams (2) during the Gators win at the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Saturday Jan. 7, 2017. Florida beat the Vols 83-70 to go to 3-0 in the SEC.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 7:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 7:12 p.m.

There were reasons to think “black out” Saturday could end dark for No. 24 Florida.

Facts

Up next

Who: No. 24 Florida vs. Alabama
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TV: ESPNU
Radio: 103.7-FM

The Gators struggled through a turnover-filled first half against Tennessee and their two centers, Kevarrius Hayes and John Egbunu, failed to stay on the court due to foul trouble.

But a dash of hot shooting in the second half from sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen and some unexpected contributions allowed the Gators to remain unblemished in SEC play with an 83-70 win over the Volunteers before a sellout crowd of 10,843 at the O'Connell Center.

Florida (12-3, 3-0 SEC) won its fifth straight in an imperfect game that revealed some flaws. But unlike last Tuesday against Ole Miss, Florida closed strong, outscoring Tennessee 17-7 in the final four minutes.

“We showed a little more fight and feistiness and mental resolve to not fold,” Florida coach Mike White said. “There's a few games last year, at Tennessee last year being one, where we didn't respond really well to a hard-fought game.”

Unlike last season, when Florida was outrebounded 34-23 in an 83-69 loss to the Vols, the Gators remained even on the boards (31-31), while holding Tennessee to just nine offensive rebounds. Forward Admiral Shofield led Tennessee (8-7, 1-2 SEC) with 18 points, but fouled out with 3:49 remaining.

Allen scored 16 of his season-high 23 points in the second half and made four 3-pointers in the game's final eight minutes. Senior forward Justin Leon added a career-high 19 points, while senior Canyon Barry remained productive off the bench with 15 points.

The biggest surprise came from senior center Schuyler Rimmer, who was able to stabilize the post with Hayes and Egbunu on the bench with foul trouble. Rimmer's stat line (three points, three rebounds, one block) wasn't gaudy, but the Gators outscored the Vols by 15 points in his 16 minutes on the floor.

“When I get opportunities in the game, I just try to take advantage of it,” Rimmer said. “But at the end of the day, if I was playing 20 minutes, 30 minutes or two minutes, I just want to win games. I want to see the team do well.”

Said Barry: “We should give a ton of credit to Schuyler Rimmer, who came off the bench and played phenomenal.”

Wearing black uniforms for the first time this season, Florida came out of the gate sluggish. The Gators trailed by as many as six points in the first half and were down 33-32 at halftime, thanks to 15 Tennessee points off nine UF turnovers. Egbunu and point guard Kasey Hill each had turnovers dribbling the ball off their foot, while forward Devin Robinson had four first-half turnovers.

But rather than lay into his team in the locker room at halftime, White said he took a calmer approach.

“We thought if we just settled in and calmed down offensively, as much as anything, we could play a much better second half,” White said. “By me going in there in screaming, I don't know how much good that could have done us.”

The approach worked. Florida made 10 of its first 11 shots in the second half and turned up its intensity on the defensive end of the floor as well. The Gators scored 16 of their 25 points off turnovers in the second half. A big play came when Hill got a steal and found Egbunu in transition for a dunk which put Florida up 49-45 and got the crowd going for the first time. Hill finished the game with seven points and seven assists.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said the Vols turned the ball over too many times (19) and didn't play well enough defensively in the second half.

“Mike is doing a good job with his team,” Barnes said. “I think he's got his guys in the roles they need to be in. I think they play well together. They share the ball well. They are a much different team than they were a season ago.”

The 6-foot-2 Allen was able to get on a roll from there. With Florida clinging to a 60-59 lead after a 3-pointer by Tennessee's Detrick Mostella, Allen answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to put

Florida up 66-59.

“It felt good to see those shots go in, but we can't just feed off our shots,” Allen said. “We have to feed off our defensive energy and convert it into offense.”

Allen's final 3-pointer, with 1:16 left, put Florida up 79-68 and thwarted any chance of a late Tennessee comeback. The Gators are 3-0 in league play for the first time since the 2014-15 season and will go for a 4-0 start Tuesday night at Alabama.

“It's a big accomplishment to be 3-0,” Allen said. “But we have to continue to work hard, go to practice, learn from our mistakes and perform better.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or kevin.brockway@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

No. 24 FLORIDA 83, TENNESSEE 70

TENNESSEE (8-7)

Alexander 2-2 0-0 4, Williams 2-5 2-2 6, Hubbs 4-11 0-0 8, Bowden 5-8 2-2 15, Bone 3-7 0-0 6, Evans 0-0 0-0 0, Schofield 6-9 6-8 18, Turner 2-6 0-0 4, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 0-0 0-0 0, Mostella 3-6 0-1 9. Totals 27-54 10-13 70.

FLORIDA (12-3)

Robinson 2-7 0-0 4, Leon 5-6 6-6 19, Hayes 1-2 1-1 3, Allen 8-13 3-5 23, Hill 3-6 0-0 7, Stone 2-6 1-2 5, Egbunu 1-1 0-2 2, Rimmer 1-2 1-2 3, Chiozza 1-6 0-0 2, Barry 4-7 6-8 15. Totals 28-56 18-26 83.

Halftime_Tennessee 33-32. 3-Point Goals_Tennessee 6-14 (Bowden 3-5, Mostella 3-5, Hubbs 0-2, Turner 0-2), Florida 9-20 (Allen 4-6, Leon 3-4, Hill 1-1, Barry 1-3, Robinson 0-2, Chiozza 0-2, Stone 0-2). Fouled Out_Schofield, Williams. Rebounds_Tennessee 27 (Schofield 10), Florida 28 (Leon 6). Assists_Tennessee 10 (Turner 4), Florida 13 (Hill 7). Total Fouls_Tennessee 22, Florida 16.

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