The Florida men’s basketball team has looked like two vastly different teams for most of the season.
Noah Locke dribbled up to the three-point line.
One, a flat — lethargic at times — group unable to make shots and maintain any sort of intensity down the stretch. The other, a unit able to establish offensive rhythms and capitalize off the energy that each guy brings to the court.
Both showed up against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. The latter almost pulled off an upset against the No. 3 team in the country. The former was wildly inconsistent and made undisciplined mistakes that led to a 78-67 loss to Tennessee at the O’Connell Center.
Nine first-half three-pointers was a good indicator of how badly the Gators wanted to match the intensity of the moment against the Volunteers.
They knew they couldn’t attack the rim much against the Vols because of their size, and they didn’t. But Florida was efficient in its ball movement in the first half and took advantage of what was working.
Guards KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke posted three three-pointers apiece in that span, combining for 21 first-half points.
Allen’s toughness was a centerpiece of the Gators’ offense through much of the half, and it was one of very few silver linings that coach Mike White pointed out following the defeat.
Allen took nine shots against the Vols, finishing with a team-high 18 points and five triples.
The senior completed just the second four-point play of his career within the first 10 minutes of the game after he was fouled by UT’s Kyle Alexander on a three-point attempt.
And Florida road several swarming waves of high-energy momentum into halftime, carrying a 38-35 lead.
But a different group emerged from the locker room for the second time.
That team opened the period 1 for 9, while its opponent began 6 of 8. The Gators couldn’t find the same energy they started with, and they started taking some ill-advised shots without any type of ball movement.
Freshman Andrew Nembhard went 1-for-8 shooting in the half and missed two wide-open layups, but it remained a one-possession game for most of the contest.
Florida allowed 12 second-chance points to the Vols, 10 coming in the second half. The Gators were bullied by Kyle Alexander under the basket, giving up two offensive boards to the forward in the same possession, and Williams made them pay with a bucket plus an and-one.
“I look out there a couple times and our bigs are involved quite a few times,” White said. “Sometimes we’ve got guards just watching the fight. If you don’t have five in the fight, you’re not going to win.”
Florida’s fight was lost with its discipline in the last five minutes of the game. The Gators allowed a 9-0 run to the Volunteers in less than a minute, completely collapsing on both sides of the ball.
And in the end, the intensity the Gators brought to stay in the game wasn’t enough to overcome the inability to execute and remain sound.
“We put together a great effort for a total of, like, 35 minutes,” Hayes said. “But those five minutes where we had our lulls, that’s when they went on their big runs … We gotta close out a game the right way.”
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