Florida (17-10, 8-6 SEC) travels to Knoxville to face off against Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. The Volunteers have lost five of the last six games against the Gators, losing their previous matchup with Florida.
In 2017, the No. 24 ranked Gators handed Tennessee an 83-70 loss in Gainesville. The last time the two teams played in Knoxville came in 2016. Tennessee came out on top with 26 points from Kevin Punter.
The last two games for Florida have been decided by a combined six points, and neither game went in the Gatos favor. Florida fell to Georgia 72-69, and then lost to Vanderbilt by a score of 71-68 in Nashville on Saturday. The Gators lost despite forcing the Commodores to turn the ball over 11 times and shoot 43 percent from the field.
Vanderbilt was down by 11 points with just 14 minutes remaining in the game on Saturday. However, the Commodores won their fifth straight game in Memorial Gym with a combined 47 points from Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance.
“The only thing consistent about this team (Florida) is our inconsistency,” said Gators head coach Mike White.
Despite the loss, sophomore Keith Stone led Florida with a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Egor Koulechev and junior Jalen Hudson were the only other Gators with over 10 points in the game, as they combined for 11 rebounds. Senior guard Chris Chiozza registered just six points and six assists in the loss.
“He’s experienced and he’s very fast and they do a lot with him. He puts a lot of pressure on you on defense past the ball,” said Barnes about Chiozza. “He’s moving the whole time and he keeps the ball moving. He’s been around this league a long time and he’s had a lot of success.”
The Volunteers are fresh off an embarrassing 73-62 loss to Georgia on Saturday. The Bulldogs finished off Tennessee 73-62 thanks to forward Yante Maten scoring a team-high 19 points. Most alarming for the Vols was their offensive inefficiency, as they shot just 34 percent from the field and made just 8-of-25 three-pointers.
“I think the biggest variable this time of year is rebounding. I think that you got to control the boards. You certainly have to control your defensive boards,” said Barnes. “You cannot have unforced turnovers this time of year.”
Tennessee had four players reach double-digit points in Saturday’s game, including Lamonte Turner’s 14 points and three rebounds. The big man duo of Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander combined for 21 points and 17 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to leave Athens with a win.
The Vols are going to need more production from their forward Grant Williams, who shot just 1-of-8 from the field and tallied five points. Tennessee also needs to get back to dominating on the boards or it could be a long night for the Vols.
Edited by Ben McKee
Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics