GAINESVILLE — After three consecutive losses to Tennessee — and a 4-9 record against the Volunteers since 2007 — No. 6 Florida was feeling a little heat with the Vols coming to town Saturday.
With four seniors who had lost more than they had won against the Vols, the game took on a "desperate" tone. And that was exactly the way Gators coach Billy Donovan wanted it.
Florida dominated defensively, holding Tennessee to a season-low in points in a 67-41 victory in front of 12,475 at the O'Connell Center.
"We came out with the mind-set of, I don't want to say revenge, but we had a little chip on our shoulder," said senior center Patric Young, who had 10 points and five rebounds. "They kicked our butts the last three times (they played). They didn't just beat us. I can remember each loss, and the last one was the worst because they were on their court celebrating."
Saturday's win marked the largest margin of victory against Tennessee since a 95-57 win in 2004. Florida (17-2, 6-0 SEC) won its 26th straight at home and 11th straight overall, and it remains the only undefeated team in SEC play.
"We came out with great energy and played with passion the whole game," said sophomore guard Michael Frazier, who led all scorers with 17 points. "That's what we needed to do; we needed to play tough the whole game."
UF led 26-19 at halftime after the Gators closed out the final 9:13 of the first half on an 11-4 run. Florida opened the second half on a 14-4 run to take a 40-23 lead with 13:40 left. Tennessee (12-7, 3-3) shot 26.8 percent from the field and was 1-of-19 from 3-point range.
Florida held Vols guard Jordan McRae to five points on 1-of-15 shooting. Forward Jarnell Stokes led UT with 16 points but was scoreless in the final 10:40.
"I thought Florida did a great job defending," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "They turned us over, they sped us up with the press, they did a great job."
Prior to the game, Donovan challenged his team to play more "desperate," saying he wanted to see more of an edge than it had shown the past few games.
"I told our guys coming out of Auburn, coming out of Alabama, I thought we won the battle and lost the war," he said. "And what I meant by that is I thought our team in terms of the standard that I'd like to see our guys play up to, not that we're going to be perfect, but we lost that war. The outcome, the result was a 'W' against those two teams, but we didn't play to the level or our expectation I thought we could play at defensively. …
"(Saturday) I thought we played closer to our identity and our potential on defense. I think the last two games we didn't do that, so it was encouraging to me to see our guys come out with that kind of focus."
Antonya English can be reached at email@example.com.