Scottie Lewis

After a Wednesday night game where the once-reeling Gators convincingly defeated LSU 81-66, it’s apparent that UF is approaching the end of the regular season on a high note.

Florida is 6-2 in its last eight games, and forward Keyontae Johnson has found the formula to his offense. The sophomore is averaging almost 23 points per game in his last three and has scored double digits in 11 straight games.

After breaking his career high for the second time in the same week, Johnson believes that the game is slowing down for him.

“(I’m) just playing at my pace, playing with confidence, shooting with confidence and just playing the game,” he said after the LSU win. “Like coach says, just stay in the moment and let the game come to me.”

Guard Scottie Lewis also set a career high after scoring 18 points against LSU, and the freshman also cited one of coach Mike White’s mantras in attribution to the team’s recent success.

“He (White) wants us to have our individual confidence and our confidence as a team,” Lewis said. “But his coaching mindset is a ‘do your job’ mindset. He’s so focused…not necessarily (on) everything we do wrong but things we can get better at.”

The celebration won’t last long for White and company, he is already looking to the next challenge in the Tennessee Volunteers.

“We got a bunch of guys who don’t understand how difficult it is to beat Tennessee, especially at Tennessee,” White said. “They’re going to be prepared, they’re going to guard the heck out of you, they’re disciplined, it’s a high-level program.”

The Volunteers boast a 10-5 home record and UF has struggled on the road at 3-6.

Still, there is blood in the water when the Gators look at this SEC matchup. UT (15-13, 7-8) is 3-7 in its last 10 games and is currently on a two-game slide.

UF (18-10, 10-5) hasn’t played the Volunteers this season but needs to be familiar with its roster that has five different players who average double figure points.

One of those players is guard Lemonte Turner, who hasn’t played since Dec. 21 after announcing he would miss the rest of the season due to a nerve/vessel disorder.

Despite the balanced scoring, the Volunteers are the second-worst offense in the SEC — behind only Texas A&M — and are averaging 66.9 points per game.

What they lack in offense they make up for in rejections. UT leads the conference with 5.8 blocks per game and are led by junior Yves Pons at that front. He contributes 2.4 blocks a game to lead the Vols.

ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index gives Florida the advantage, but it looks to be close one as UF is given a 52.4% chance to come out on top.

Tipoff will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Follow Joseph Salvador on Twitter @JosephSalvador_. Contact him at [email protected].

Joseph Salvador is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida and was previously Sports Editor for Broward College's newspaper The Observer. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2019.