Friday, March 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Florida 85, Tennessee 74
By Mark Schlabach
ATLANTA -- Maybe this Florida team really is different from the last few teams coach Billy Donovan has put on the floor.
After three straight early-round exits in the previous three SEC tournaments, Florida defeated Tennessee 85-74 in Friday night’s quarterfinals at the Georgia Dome. It was Florida’s third victory this season over UT, and the Gators advanced to play the winner of Friday night’s late game between Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in Saturday’s semifinals.
Florida, the SEC regular-season champion, had each of its five starters score 10 points or more. Guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker led the Gators with 22 and 17 points, respectively.
Turning point: The score was tied 50-50 with 12:09 to go. After Vernon Macklin’s layup gave the Gators a 52-50 lead with 11:48 left, UT coach Bruce Pearl was hit with a technical foul. Boynton made both foul shots for a four-point lead, and then the Gators started to pull away.
Key players: Florida’s guards struggled with UT’s aggressive defense in the first half, but Boynton and Walker took control in the second. They combined to score 39 points on 10-for-20 shooting, including 5-for-11 on 3-pointers. Boynton went 10-for-10 at the foul line.
Key stat: 11-4: Florida’s record away from the O’Dome in true road and neutral-site games. It’s the second-best mark away from home, trailing only Kansas’ 13-1 record entering Friday’s action.
Miscellaneous: The Volunteers squandered a fantastic performance from freshman Tobias Harris, who scored 25 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Harris scored 18 points in the first half.
What’s next: The Gators, who advanced to play the winner of Friday night’s late game between Mississippi State and Vanderbilt in Saturday’s semifinals, still have a realistic chance at a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Tennessee seems to be in good shape for an NCAA at-large bid with a 19-14 record and several high-end victories.