9:00 PM ET, February 23, 2010
Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida
Tennessee has gained control of its SEC East rivalry with Florida in recent seasons, but the gap may be narrowing after the Volunteers needed a last-minute comeback to earn a home win over the Gators three weeks ago.A seventh straight victory in the series may be even tougher to get Tuesday night in Gainesville, where the 19th-ranked Vols hope to deny Florida a prime opportunity to bolster its NCAA tournament resume.The Gators won five in a row against Tennessee from 2001-03, but they've beaten the Vols (20-6, 8-4 SEC) only once in nine meetings since Bruce Pearl took over as head coach in Knoxville before the 2005-06 season.Florida had an opportunity to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the Vols on Jan. 31, but Tennessee's Scotty Hopson hit a go-ahead jumper with 21 seconds left and the Vols held on for a 61-60 win. Gators forward Alex Tyus missed a chance to answer at the other end.In order to avenge that loss Tuesday, Florida (19-8, 8-4) will likely have to improve its performance on the glass. Tennessee outrebounded the Gators 41-32 last month, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds to help overcome 38.5 percent shooting."We're going to have to do a better job as it relates to loose basketballs, block-out situations," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Hopefully that was a game we learned from and have gotten better from. Our guys know the importance of rebounding now."Although the teams are tied for third place in the SEC East behind Kentucky and Vanderbilt, this game probably has more tangible meaning for Florida, which is trying to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since winning its second consecutive national championship in 2007.The Gators are 0-3 against ranked opponents since a 77-74 win over then-No. 2 Michigan State on Nov. 27, and they would be helped by another win over a team that's likely to make the tournament."I don't think a year ago we were capable of beating high quality teams," Donovan said."In this game right now, our guys understand what goes into winning," the coach added. "What's in the past is in the past."Florida won 64-61 at Mississippi on Saturday despite shooting 36.5 percent, riding 22 points from junior Vernon Macklin, who was 8 of 11 from the field. The rest of the team was 11 of 41.Macklin is one of five Gators averaging at least 10.0 points, but leading scorer Kenny Boynton has struggled lately. The freshman was 2 of 12 from the field against Ole Miss, totaling six points, and Tennessee held him to four points on 2-of-11 shooting. In the last seven games, Boynton is 9 of 42 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range.Like Florida, the Vols will be going for a third straight victory. They improved to 4-4 in true road games Saturday at South Carolina, winning 63-55 behind a team-high 14 points from senior guard Bobby Maze."As the clock ticks down, I want people to remember me here," Maze said of his dwindling collegiate career. "That I gave it my all on the floor and against the best players, I rise to the occasion."Maze held SEC leading scorer Devan Downey to 4-of-18 shooting and the Gamecocks shot 31.7 percent as a team, with Tennessee improving to 15-0 when limiting opponents to 40 percent or worse. The Vols also locked up a fifth straight 20-win season."That's a big milestone," senior forward Wayne Chism said. "Now, we've got to work on number 21."
|Avg Points Allowed||64.9||65.4|