Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

No. 13 Florida Gators lose SEC opener 67-56 at Tennessee Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Florida coach Billy Donovan wants his players to learn that they can't rely on their offense to bail them out of tough road games.

The 13th-ranked Gators had their fewest points this season while allowing Tennessee plenty of shots around the basket in the Volunteers' 67-56 win Saturday in both teams' SEC opener.

"Both teams played hard, but the difference was the defense," Donovan said. "I still think our guys have a long way to go in terms of what they need to learn and how they need to grow, and these experiences hopefully will help us."

Florida, which has lost all four of its true road games this season, went in averaging 85.4 points, best among SEC teams and fifth in the nation. The Vols held the Gators to a season-worst 35.7 percent shooting while hitting 51 percent of their own attempts.

And UF, which entered leading the nation in 3-point shooting, hit just 31.8 percent (7-for-22) against a team that was next-to-last in the SEC at defending the arc.

Josh Richardson hit a 3-pointer 41 seconds into the second half that set the tone for the Vols. Cameron Tatum stole the ball from Erving Walker on the next possession and ran it down the floor for a dunk to give Tennessee a 38-31 lead.

Kenny Boynton hit a 3 for the Gators. Boynton, who entered the game averaging 19.5 points, finished with 13. Erik Murphy also had 13 for Florida (12-4) and Patric Young added 12.

Renaldo Woolridge answered with a layup for UT. Tatum drew a charge by Bradley Beal, and after running a bit of an offensive set, drove to the basket to hit a layup to make it 42-34.

"If we defend a little bit better, I'm not saying we win the game but at least we're probably a little bit more in the game, and we needed to be," Donovan said.

The Vols (8-7) expanded their lead as they hit 12 of 22 shots in the second half while the Gators hit 8 of 27. UT controlled the post in the half and outscored Florida 32-20 in the paint.

Smothered by defenders, Jordan McRae hit a jumper near the basket to give Tennessee a 65-49 lead with 1:57 to go, putting the game out of reach.

"They were making shots," Murphy said. "They were getting a lot of easy baskets, because they were executing their offense really well. You know, we didn't guard as well as we could have. You combine those two together and they are going to score."

After starting every other game this season, Kenny Hall came off the bench to score a season-high 13 for the Vols. The Florida bench was outscored 25-1.

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