KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Victor Bailey, John Fulkerson and Keon Johnson scored 14 points apiece and Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Florida 65-54 Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Tennessee (17-7, 10-7 SEC) secured the No. 4 seed and a bye into the Friday’s quarterfinals of the conference tournament in Nashville.
Fulkerson added seven rebounds and four assists, and Josiah-Jordan James had eight points and 10 boards for the Volunteers.
The Gators used a 13-2 run to take a 31-17 lead with five minutes left in the first half, but Tennessee scored 11 of the final 13 first-half points to trim its deficit to five at the break. Florida missed seven consecutive shots from the field, and 9 of 10,as the Vols ripped off a 21-4 spurt — including eight points by Bailey — to make it 53-43 with 7:33 to play.
Tyree Appleby had 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, and Colin Castleton added 11 points for Florida (13-9, 9-7), which lost two straight to close out the regular season.
The fifth-seeded Gators play the winner between No. 12 seed Texas A&M and No. 13 seed Vanderbilt in Thursday’s second round.
After being outrebounded 18-16 in the first half, Tennessee was plus-11 on the glass in the second. Florida had just 21 points after the break, its lowest-scoring half of the season.
The Gators went into the game leading the SEC in free-throw percentage (.760, 37th NCAA), field-goal percentage (.472, 42nd NCAA) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.359, 78th NCAA). On Sunday, they shot 41.7 percent from the field, made 3 of 13 (23.1 percent) from behind the arc and hit 11 of 18 (61.1 percent) free throws.