In one of their most complete team performances of the season, the Florida Gators may have convinced the NCAA committee that they deserve a tournament bid after dominating the second-half to snap a six-game losing streak against the Tennessee Volunteers.
After playing a close first half and being tied at the end of the first period, the Gators came out in the second with a gutsy, physical effort. The Gators dominated inside, drawing Tennessee into foul trouble and getting several second-chance baskets.
The Gators were able to consistently build-up their lead throughout the second period, avoiding the "let-down" that they seemingly encounter far too often late in games. With about five minutes remaining and up double digits, the Gators connected on four quick three-pointers (three by Erving Walker) to stretch the lead to 20 points and end any chance of a Tennessee comeback.
The Florida defense stepped up tremendously in the second half. After playing the first 15 minutes of the game without a turnover while accruing a five-point lead, Tennessee committed 14 turnovers against a harrassing and relentless Gator D in the final 25 minutes of the game.
Chandler Parsons and Erving Walker both tallied 19 points to lead the Gators offensively. Vernon Macklin lead the team with 10 rebounds while also scoring 13 points for his second career double-double.
Tennessee's leading scorer and rebounder, forward Wayne Chism, fouled out in the second half with just seven points and one rebound. He was a non-factor throughout most of the game, either banged up from physical play or on the bench because of foul trouble.
Guard Scotty Hopson lead Vol scorers with 20 points despite coming off the bench. He was 4-8 from three-point territory.
Florida improves to 9-4 in the SEC and moves ahead (at least for now) of 8-5 Tennessee for third place in the East. Florida notched their third straight win and improved their overall record to 20-8. It is the 12th season in a row that Florida has reached 20 victories for the season, the longest such streak of any SEC team.
The Gators now have a few days to rest before next heading to Athens for a meeting with Georgia on Saturday, February 27th.