Chris Chiozza

Guard Chris Chiozza had 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the Gators' Wednesday night loss to Tennessee.

Alan Alvarez de Sotomayor / Alligator Staff

Chris Chiozza received an inbound pass and drove toward the basket. Down by five with 25 seconds remaining in the contest, the senior guard sprinted by two defenders as he made a beeline for the hoop.

Chiozza placed a contested layup on the right side of the backboard and was fouled by Tennessee forward Grant Williams on the way up.

As the referee’s whistle blew, the ball fell through the basket, and the collective groan of the home crowd flushed over the arena like water flowing into an empty bucket.

But Chiozza’s effort wasn’t enough. His free throw missed off the right side of the rim, keeping Florida’s men’s basketball team down by three and allowing the Volunteers’ defense to keep the Gators at bay.

In a 62-57 defeat on Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tennessee, UF (17-11, 8-7 SEC) missed numerous chances down the stretch, allowing UT (20-7, 10-5 SEC) to maintain control of the game late.

Despite finishing with 11 points, Chiozza missed three layups in the final three minutes of the contest. His play contributed to an offensive struggle for Florida that saw it score only nine points over that stretch.

UF’s real troubles, however, came in the first 20 minutes.

The Gators couldn’t get anything going in the first half, scoring a season-low 18 points on 26.9 percent shooting. For their individual scorers, Chiozza and guard Egor Koulechov led the team with just four points each.

Tennessee jumped out to an early lead at the start, opening the game on a 6-0 run behind two jump shots and a layup. Florida, meanwhile, didn’t score in the first four and half minutes of the half.

The Gators continued a back-and-forth battle with the Volunteers, including a layup from center Kevarrius Hayes with 7:37 left in the half to tie the score at 14. But an 11-1 Tennessee run to end the half put UT ahead 27-18.

In the final four minutes, the Gators missed 9 of its last 10 shots.

However, they came out much stronger in the second half.

A 9-0 run over a 2:22 stretch reduced Florida’s deficit down to one with just under 13 minutes left to play, thanks to four points from forward Keith Stone and three from guard Jalen Hudson. But while the Gators threatened to take the lead, Tennessee always had an answer.

When Florida made it a one-point game two other times in the second half, the Volunteers matched them.

Both were on layups from UF forward Dontay Bassett, which were met with a layup from Williams and a dunk from UT guard Jordan Bowden, respectively.

As the Gators reached the final three minutes of play, those missed opportunities started to hurt them. Down by seven with 3:41 left, Florida missed three shots — a Stone three-pointer, a Koulechov jump shot and a Chiozza layup — before Hudson converted a layup.

Following two free throws from Williams to extend the score to 57-50, Chiozza missed another layup before Hudson nailed a three-pointer.

And with 37 seconds left, Chiozza missed another layup for a chance to cut into a 59-55 Tennessee advantage, helping to seal the deal for the Volunteers.

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].

Jake Dreilinger is the online sports editor of the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's basketball team. He has previously covered baseball, lacrosse, men's and women's golf and women's tennis. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2015.