Noah Locke dribbled up to the three-point line.
Mike White was fresh off a win against Arkansas on Wednesday when he joined SEC Network broa…
The true freshman guard had scored 16 points, including a 4-of-8 mark from beyond the arc. His team was down two points to the third-ranked team in the country with just over a minute left to play. Locke put up what would have been the go-ahead three-point basket, but it bounced off the rim and into Jordan Bowden’s hands.
“Held my breath for a second, that’s all,” White said of the shot. “Thought it was a good look.”
The Volunteers were adamant in not allowing Florida another shot at the lead, scoring nine-unanswered points in the final 44 seconds.
The No. 3 team victoriously took the court at the O’Connell Center, complete with mock-Gator chomping. Kevarrius Hayes wasn’t a fan of the display.
“I’m not one for it,” the senior center said. “I thought it was kind of low.”
Tennessee pulled away for a 78-67 win despite trailing for much of the second half.
“We did a pretty good job of executing, got some good looks,” coach Mike White said. “We just didn’t make enough of them.”
The Gators (9-6, 1-2 SEC) didn’t shoot well in the second period. Florida hit 41.4 percent of its first-half field goals, capitalizing on rare offensive intensity to hit 9 of 22 from three. It rode a strong shooting performance to a 38-35 halftime lead.
But in the second half, UF only hit seven of its 25 shots while Tennessee (14-1, 3-0 SEC) made 15 of 26 shots. Senior guard KeVaughn Allen led the team in scoring with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but he wasn’t on the court for several key possessions in the final minutes.
“The mistakes that we made, they kind of hurt us at the end,” Allen said.
The Gators employed a four-guard starting lineup for the second straight game, as Hudson started once again in place of junior forward Keith Stone. Hudson played 20 minutes against Tennessee, despite managing only two points.
UT forward Grant Williams looked unstoppable Saturday night. He scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He also had nine rebounds. White said the zone defense was the only thing that held Williams in check.
“If we played man-to-man for 40 minutes, Grant Williams might have had 60 (points),” he said. “He’s so good.”
The Gators struggled to contain Williams, guard Admiral Schofield, who scored 14 points, and Bowden, who had 17 points, but outside of the Tennessee playmakers, Florida’s defense appeared to rattle the Volunteers. White said he thought the defense made some good stops but gave up too many offensive rebounds.
“I look out there a couple of times and our bigs are involved quite a few times,” White said. “Sometimes, we’ve got guards just watching the fight (for rebounds),”
White was happy to see his team execute on a more consistent basis but was still unsatisfied with the effort he saw.
“This can’t be a moral victory,” White said. “We’re the University of Florida, and we did not do our jobs down the stretch."
Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno and contact him at [email protected].