With two burly big men in Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes and guard Jordan McRae, Tennessee had the look of a team capable of at the very least challenging No. 6 Florida in Gainesville Saturday afternoon. McRae entered the game averaging more than 19 points per game, with Maymon and Stokes also in double figures for Cuonzo Martin’s team. Would they be expected to win? Probably not, but it wasn’t too much to expect the Volunteers to put forth a respectable effort.
That didn’t happen. The Volunteers missed multiple shots around the rim and McRae made just one of his 15 attempts as the Gators rolled to the 67-41 victory. Billy Donovan’s team shot 48% from the field, with Michael Frazier II leading four players in double figures with 17 points. Yet even with that being the case, Florida does have some fine-tuning to do when it comes to their execution in half-court sets. One area of concern is that teams can sag off of Kasey Hill in ball-screen situations and dare him to shoot jumpers at this stage, and that’s something Florida needs to change in the coming weeks.
However, the biggest thing to take out of the win was Florida’s defense.
Tennessee shot just 26% from the field, by far their worst performance of the season, and outside of Stokes the Volunteers could get nothing established offensively. And for a team that struggled defending the three in SEC play, ranking 11th in three-point percentage defense, Florida limited Tennessee to 1-for-19 from beyond the arc.
Between their man-to-man and occasional pressure looks, the Gators were successful in their quest to keep Tennessee from doing anything with comfort offensively.
At this point it’s clear that Florida is the class of the SEC, even with Kentucky making strides in the right direction, and they have the talent and ability needed to accomplish even more than simply winning a conference title.