Florida guard Deaundre Ballard held his hands high above his head, less like a defender and more like a helpless victim signaling his surrender. Tennessee forward Grant Williams pushed him back and back until Ballard looked straight up from under the rim — arms still locked — and watched the ball fall gently through the net.
The Gators didn’t have an answer for Williams’ aggressive play in their 62-57 loss to the Volunteers on Wednesday night.
Chris Chiozza received an inbound pass and drove toward the basket. Down by five with 25 sec…
Williams and teammate Admiral Schofield combined for well over half of Tennessee’s total points. Until late in the second period, no Florida player had scored in double digits.
Guard Chris Chiozza was the only consistent source of production throughout the game. At halftime, no other Gator had recorded an assist. Chiozza finished with 11 points, matching his scoring performance in the last two games combined.
However, Florida consistently missed open shots off of crafty Chiozza passes. The Gators failed to convert a field goal in the final five minutes of their 18-point first half performance and ended the game shooting just 35 percent from the field.
Chiozza’s nine assists weren’t enough to rival the performance of Tennessee’s Williams and Schofield, who both had their way with the Gators’ defense.
Schofield contributed 16 points and a game-high eight rebounds, including the last board before the final buzzer.
Williams converted on over 61 percent of his field goal attempts on his way to 23 points – well over his 16 points per game average. He also added seven points from the free throw line on eight attempts.
For a team frequently plagued by dry offensive stretches, allowing explosive performances on the other end of the floor has proven to be dangerous for Florida. The Gators are now 2-5 in SEC competition when an opposing player scores over 20 points.
Without any recent heroic outings, such as those seen in November with guard Jalen Hudson’s 35 points against Gonzaga or guard Egor Koulechov’s 26 points against Stanford, UF doesn’t have much to seriously threaten teams with offensively.
Two of the Gators’ final three regular-season opponents — No. 11 Auburn and Kentucky — rank among the top five SEC teams in points per game. Fighting for those necessary wins to seal its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, the Gators are in need of a hero.