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Florida runs past No. 2 Tennessee in Gainesville, 67-54

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey02/01/23

GrantRamey

The 15-0 run in the first half for Florida was what put No. 2 Tennessee on the ropes Wednesday night. It was a 13-0 run in the second half from the Gators that knocked the Vols out in a 67-54 loss at Exactech Arena in Gainesville.

Tennessee erased what was as much as a 13-point deficit and led by six with just over 10 minutes left in the second half, but Florida went on a 13-0 run to retake the lead and build the advantage back to nine. And it was more than enough for the Gators in the closing minutes.

The Vols (18-4, 7-2 SEC) got 15 points from Zakai Zeigler and Olivier Nkamhoua and Santiago Vescovi scored 11 each. Julian Phillips had six and Josiah-Jordan James scored four.

Florida (13-9, 6-3) was led by 20 points and nine rebounds from Colin Castleton. Kyle Lofton had 14.

Zeigler hit back-to-back 3-pointers, putting Tennessee up 39-38 at the 12:27 mark, giving the Vols the lead for the first time since the game’s opening minute. Jonas Aidoo scored in the paint on the next possession to extend the lead to three, matching Tennessee’s biggest lead of the game. Vescovi hit three foul shots after getting fouled at the 3-point line with 10:40 left, getting the eld to six.

Florida was back up nine after a Lofton three with 5:12 left, following five straight points from Castleton.

The decisive run started with two Castleton free throws with 10:09 to go, followed by two Lofton free throws. Myron Jones hit a three with 8:41 left to get Florida back within one, then Riley Kugel scored the go-ahead bucket in transition 23 seconds later.

From there it was a Castleton three-point play, a Castleton layup, a Lofton three and then another Castleton three-point play. It was an 11-point Florida lead with after Castleton scored with 2:55 left.

Tennessee’s slow start helped Florida build early 13-point lead

Tennessee trailed 27-21 at halftime after rallying to cut the 13-point deficit down to one, only to go scoreless over the final four minutes of the first half, missing the final seven shots of the half. 

Florida went on a 15-0 run early in the game to build a 17-4 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half. 

Tennessee went scoreless for seven minutes while the Gators built their early lead. The Vols had as many turnovers (four) as points (four) in the opening eight minutes, starting 2-for-13 from the field and 1-for-5 from the 3-point line.

There was life out of the second media timeout, with seven straight points from Nkamhoua followed by a Zeigler bucket to cut the deficit to six after the Vols made three straight shots.

Nkamhoua scored with 4:04 left in the first half, getting Tennessee back within a point at 22-21 after a 6-0 run over 74 seconds. From there, though, the Vols were shutout the rest of the half.

Tennessee shot 9-for-31 from the field and was 2-for-10 at the 3-point line. Florida was 10-for-24 from the field and 4-for-13 from the 3-point line, leading for 18 minutes, 32 seconds in the first half.

Up Next: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 25 Auburn, Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN

Tennessee is back home on Saturday to host No. 25 Auburn inside a sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena. The game is sold out, but can be watched on ESPN. The Vols go to Vanderbilt next week, then host Missouri on February 11, before the showdown with No. 4 Alabama on February 15.

The trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky awaits Tennessee on February 18, followed by a trip to Texas A&M on February 21. The regular-season closes with a home games against South Carolina (February 25) and Arkansas (February 28) and a trip to Auburn (March 4), before the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

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