Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) Tennessee battled to the end, but suffered a 67-58 loss to #3 Florida as the Gators extended their winning streak to 16 games. The Vols were within one point with less than four minutes to go, but Florida knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, which proved to be the final blow to the Vols' upset hopes.
Tennessee fell to 15-9 overall and 6-5 in the SEC. Florida is now 22-2 overall and a perfect 11-0 in the league. The Gators are 5-0 in road SEC games, while every other team has at least two conference road defeats.
Junior Jarnell Stokes had his 14th double-double this season with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jordan McRae tallied 17 and Josh Richardson added 13 for the Vols.
Those two late 3-pointers were nailed the Gators' top two scorers in the game, Scottie Wilbekin (21 points) and Michael Frazier II (11 points)
With the game tied at 44 at the 15 minute mark, Florida went on a 9-2 burst to take a 53-46 lead on a spinning layup by Kasey Hill with 10:30 left in the game. The Vols had several chances to close the deficit, but couldn't convert on the offensive end.
Tennessee missed five field goals and two free throws before Richardson canned a 3-pointer with 6:15 left to bring UT within two at 53-51. The Vols' defensive effort -- a switch to a 1-3-1 zone -- compensated for the lack of offensive production, as Florida had six consecutive scoreless trips on offense.
A Stokes 3-point play with 4:32 brought the Vols within one at 55-54.
Florida was held without a field goal for seven minutes before Frazier ended an 0-of-8 draught on a 3-point field goal with 3:32 left in the game. That returned Florida's lead to two possessions at 58-54.
Wilbekin, who started the second half 0-of-6 from the floor, knocked down a dagger 3-pointer with 2:24 left in the game for a 61-54 Gators’ lead.
Tennessee hit just one basket in the final 4:32.
The Vols led Florida, 34-33 at halftime in a half that saw the Gators take an early eight-point lead only to have the Vols rally back to lead by as many as six. McRae (13) and Stokes (10) combine for 23 points as Tennessee shot 63 percent in the first half. Florida was limited to just 36.4 from the floor.
Tennessee used a 16-4 run, finished by 10 consecutive points to take 32-26 lead with 3:51 left in the half. Antonio Bartonconnected on a pair of shots after Stokes knocked down three jumpers in a row to give the Vols the six-point lead.
Florida struggled, making just 2-of-13 field goals over an eight-minute span before Prather knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:51 left in the half.
The Vols return to action on Saturday as Tennessee travels to Missouri for the first time since 1984 to take on the Tigers. That game will air on ESPN2 and the Vol Network.
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