Prov­ing ground

Vols show re­solve in road win over Ga­tors

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - BY GENE HEN­LEY STAFF WRITER

Ear­lier in the week, Ten­nessee men’s bas­ket­ball coach Rick Barnes had been asked ques­tions about how he thought his play­ers would re­spond if they were trail­ing at half­time and if they were pushed on the road.

Satur­day night, they an­swered both in re­sound­ing fash­ion.

The third-ranked Vol­un­teers’ 78-67 win at Flor­ida didn’t come easy. They trailed by six points early in the sec­ond half and were down 63-60 with 6:17 to play. But thanks to their 18-4 run down the stretch in Gainesville, the Vols im­proved to 14-1 over­all and 3-0 in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence with Arkansas com­ing to Knoxville on Tues­day.

Grant Wil­liams led the Vols with 20 points, nine re­bounds, four as­sists, two blocks and two steals. Jor­dan Bow­den and La­monte Turner had 17 and 12 points, re­spec­tively, with both play­ing 29 min­utes due to Kyle Alexan­der and Ad­mi­ral Schofield spend­ing most of the game in foul trou­ble.

Schofield fin­ished with 14 points and hit a back-break­ing 3-pointer late in the game, while Alexan­der had five re­bounds, in­clud­ing two on one key Ten­nessee pos­ses­sion that ended in a Wil­liams layup.

The Ga­tors (9-6) fell to 1-2 in SEC play, but not be­fore chal­leng­ing the Vols, whose win­ning streak is now 10 games.

After­ward, Barnes told re­porters at Ex­actech Arena about how No. 1 Duke’s 80-78 last-sec­ond win at No. 13 Flor­ida State and Ole Miss up­set­ting No. 14 Mis­sis­sippi State 81-77 on the road ear­lier Satur­day gave him a pregame il­lus­tra­tion.

“We all came down to get here, and the guys are nor­mally early and on the bus,” Barnes said. “When I got on the el­e­va­tor, I knew they were watch­ing the end of the Duke-Flor­ida State … and Mis­sis­sippi-Mis­sis­sippi State games. We were in the locker room talk­ing about how that’s the type of games these (SEC) games are go­ing to be. It’s go­ing to be like that from here on out.

“I know this, they have great re­spect for Flor­ida. They know (Flor­ida) is ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing the bas­ket­ball. We told them be­fore the game it was go­ing to come down to the last pos­ses­sion if we did our jobs and fig­ured out a way to hang in when things weren’t go­ing well. We got down a lit­tle bit and stayed in it. I thought (Flor­ida) did the same thing. I thought, ‘If we can get a lit­tle con­trol of it,’ (but) they fought back.”

Barnes was com­pli­men­tary of Bow­den, who scored 12 con­sec­u­tive points in a 1-minute, 51-sec­ond span in the sec­ond half, cap­ping his good run with a steal and a dunk that put the Vols up for good with 5:36 to play.

“He missed some shots early,” Barnes said. “De­fen­sively, I was on him more about his de­fense more than any­thing be­cause a cou­ple of those break­downs was him. When we went to switch­ing, a cou­ple times he didn’t. He stayed with it. His team­mates have a lot of con­fi­dence in him.

“We just felt like if we could get some stops, those three guys re­ally like to run. And they looked for each other. We just felt like at that point in time we could get them out in the open court. Some­body get out in the open court, where it wasn’t such a grind, and maybe get a lit­tle breath­ing room. (Flor­ida) didn’t re­ally let it hap­pen … we had one or two layups at the end.”

Flor­ida, which en­tered Satur­day’s matchup av­er­ag­ing 8.7 3-point­ers per game, was 9-for-22 from 3-point range in the first half, spread­ing out the Vols for open looks. The Ga­tors were 3-for-10 be­hind the arc in the sec­ond half and strug­gled to knock down such shots late, in­clud­ing a wideopen look for Noah Locke with 1:14 re­main­ing that would have put Flor­ida up.

In­stead, Bow­den grabbed the re­bound and Ten­nessee ran a play for Wil­liams at the top of the key, which ended with the 6-foot-7 for­ward driv­ing left and throw­ing a cross-court pass to Schofield for a wide-open 3 that put the game away.

“Typ­i­cally when I get the ball, they key on me,” Wil­liams said after­ward. “I knew if I drove it, some­body would be open. When I looked up, I saw (Don­tay) Bas­sett com­ing, so I knew AD (Schofield) was in the cor­ner. I knew he would make (the shot), and if he didn’t, I was there for the re­bound.”

The Ga­tors hit one shot over the fi­nal 6:13, a jumper by KeVaughn Allen with 3:35 to play. They were 1-for-7 with four turnovers dur­ing that key stretch.

At the end for the Vols, Turner knocked down a pair of free throws, Jor­dan Bone added a steal he fol­lowed with a dunk and Bow­den made a layup be­fore the buzzer.

After­ward, Ten­nessee play­ers were seen do­ing the Ga­tor chomp to­ward Flor­ida’s stu­dent sec­tion. Schofield said some “in­hu­mane” things had been said to Ten­nessee play­ers dur­ing the game, al­though he de­clined to go into de­tail.

“I love Gainesville,” Wil­liams said. “The stu­dents and the fans do a great job of bring­ing en­ergy. It’s sim­i­lar to TBA (Thomp­son-Bol­ing Arena), but our fans are amaz­ing.

“We need them to show up Tues­day for Arkansas.”

Con­tact Gene Hen­ley at ghen­[email protected]­freep­ress.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @gene­hen­ley3 or at Face­book.com/ Vol­sUp­date.

AP PHOTO/MATT STAMEY

Ten­nessee guard Ad­mi­ral Schofield (5) yells from the bench dur­ing Satur­day’s game against Flor­ida in Gainesville. Ten­nessee de­feated Flor­ida 78-67.

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