Sat, 28 May 2022

No. 18 Tennessee out to continue rise vs. Florida

Field Level Media
26 Jan 2022, 04:40 GMT+10

After rising in the rankings to No. 18, Tennessee will be on the prowl for its third consecutive victory when it takes on Southeastern Conference rival Florida on Wednesday in a home game at Knoxville, Tenn.

The Volunteers were ranked No. 24 last week when they fashioned a statement victory, defeating then-No. 13 LSU 64-50.

Tennessee (13-5, 4-3 SEC) was able to hold the Tigers to a season-low point total while avenging a Jan. 8 defeat at LSU. The Volunteers look for their seventh win in the last eight meetings against the Gators.

Tennessee leads the all-time series with Florida 79-58, with games played between the two teams since 1927. The Volunteers are 49-16 at home in the series. The Vols are 10-0 at home this season.

"For the most part, we've been a sound defensive team," Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. "We've had some breakdowns but had a terrific game against LSU. Overall, our defense has been good, and excited that we picked up some charges the other night.

"If you look around the country and the SEC, there's a lot of teams playing great defense and if you don't play any, then you won't give yourself much of a chance to win."

Santiago Vescovi is Tennessee's leading scorer at 14.1 points per game and has taken 61 more 3-pointers than anyone else on the team, while shooting 38.3 percent from long range. Forward John Fulkerson (7.9 points) is now coming off the bench after starting 14 games, with Uros Plavsic (4.7 points) having moved into Barnes' starting lineup.

"It is different, I like it, but definitely different," Fulkerson said. "I think I still have the same mindset with just doing whatever I can to help my team. I think our roles (are) still the same, just doing what coach asks us to do."

Florida (12-7, 3-4) won its first six games of the season but have wobbled since. The Gators lost three consecutive games to open the month, then had a three-game winning streak stopped Monday at Ole Miss. In the 70-54 loss to the Rebels, Florida made just 4 of 29 attempts from 3-point range (13.8 percent) and saw a 22-all tie at halftime turn into a double-digit defeat.

"I don't know that I can put a finger on it," Gators head coach Mike White said. "I thought we had some good looks. On the road, in a tough environment, when the other team is making a run, sometimes you can put a little bit more heat on yourselves mentally than you should. That said, I don't know how, defensively, we could be that good in one half and struggle that much in the second half."

Center Jason Jitoboh's 12 points led the Gators. He made all six of his shot attempts, while the rest of the team was 13 of 44 from the floor.

Florida played its third game without its top player, Colin Castleton. The senior forward, who is out with a left shoulder injury, is averaging a team high 15.4 points per game, leads the team at 9.1 rebounds. He also has a team-best 44 blocked shots.

White has said Castleton could miss significant time.

Florida also was without backup forward CJ Felder (4.8 points) on Monday because of a non-COVID illness.

--Field Level Media

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