Complete second-half carries #18 Vols over Florida
Published 11:28 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Contributed by UT Athletics
KNOXVILLE – Solid play on both ends of the floor in the second half helped the No. 18 Tennessee men’s basketball come from behind to defeat the Florida Gators, 78-71, Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Santiago Vescovi posted a tremendous scoring night with 23 points, tying a career-high. It was his fourth game of 20+ points this season; before this year he only did so once. His big night came primarily from beyond the arc, as he sank 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
Freshmen Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler also scored in double figures with 17 and 11, respectively. Zeigler was accurate from beyond the 3-point arc, making 3-of-5, and he set a new career-high in rebounds, pulling down six.
Chandler, on the other hand, was automatic from the free-throw line making all six of his attempts.Tennessee (14-5, 5-3 SEC) separated itself from Florida (12-8, 3-5 SEC) on the boards and in the playmaking game.
The Big Orange out-rebounded Florida, 34-24 and tallied 22 assists to Florida’s 15. The crowd of 20,789 was electric during the midweek battle, nearly blowing the roof off of Thompson-Boling Arena after a clutch and-1 from John Fulkerson with four minutes remaining in the game.
Fulkerson tallied three blocks on the night, his sixth contest this season with multiple swatted shots.
The Gators’ offense was led by Anthony Duruji and Tyree Appleby who both scored 16. Appleby added a team-high seven assists.
Florida began the evening white hot, shooting 5-of-6 on 3-pointers and 8-of-11 from the floor. Tennessee’s offense found an answer after the under-12 media timeout, sinking three treys in a row—two from Ziegler and one from Chandler—to bring the Big Orange back from a 13-point deficit to within four.
Vescovi cashed in eight points in the last two minutes, as Tennessee trailed, 42-34, at the break.
Tennessee played a complete second half to complete the comeback over the Gators. The Vols held Florida to only 29 points in the period and capitalized on an 11-2 run lasting five minutes in the middle of the frame.
UT fired at a 50 percent clip from the floor in the second half and could not miss at the line, making all 13 attempts from the charity stripe.
UP NEXT: Tennessee is set to take part in the 2022 edition of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, making the trip to Austin, Texas, to take on the Texas Longhorns on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.
COMEBACK VOLS: Tennessee trailed by as many as 13 points on Wednesday before coming back to win, marking its largest deficit overcome to win this season and surpassing the previous high of 12 against Ole Miss.
It marks the Vols’ largest deficit overcome to win since overcoming a 17-point deficit at Kentucky on March 3, 2020.
MONEY AT THE LINE: Tennessee finished the game 17-for-18 (.944) at the free-throw line, marking its best free-throw percentage in SEC play this season.