Florida falls in Knoxville

The Gators made the trip to Knoxville undermanned. With a six-man rotation and a couple other inexperienced freshmen off the bench, Tuesday was already set as a challenge for No. 8 Florida. The two freshmen totaled 10 minutes while the Gators elected to go mostly with a six-man rotation. Three players were on the court for over 35 minutes as the Gators lost 64-58 to Tennessee.

"I'm proud of our guys in terms of competitively staying in games against teams that are clearly deeper and more talented than we are," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his postgame radio show. "There are positives there. We just have to make plays to get ourselves over that hump."

The hump came in the second half when fatigue started to set in. With freshman guard Michael Frazier out for the game with a concussion, Donovan had to find a way to get through the game with enough healthy bodies. Freshman guard Braxton Ogbueze played seven minutes.

The starting guards barely got time off the court. Scottie Wilbekin led the way with 39 minutes while Kenny Boynton added 37 and Mike Rosario played 35. In his 39 minutes, Wilbekin turned the ball over just once with six assists, scoring eight points and pulling down eight rebounds.

No matter what the Florida guards did on defense, they had a tough time slowing Tennessee guard Jordan McRae. He shot 9-20 from the fieldm scoring 27 points and pulling down seven rebounds. He also added four assists, two blocks and two steals in 39 minutes.

In the paint, Jarnell Stokes did damage, pulling down 14 rebounds in 24 minutes against Florida's undersized frontcourt. The Gators were outrebounded 41-31. Thirteen of the Volunteers' 41 rebounds were on the offensive glass.

"That was the difference in the game. He had eight points, but he grabbed 14 rebounds," Donovan said. "Of those, six were offensive. The rebounding part hurt us."

The Gators went into the half down three points, but the second half defense couldn't get a stop when Florida needed it the most. As the depth issues started to take their toll, the Gators were held to just 37.9% from the field. Mike Rosario led the way with 16 points while Patric Young added 15.

We went through a period where we didn't do a great job defensively," Donovan said.

The Gators took just 17 three-pointers of their 57 shots from the field. That was an issue last week at Missouri, as Florida relied too heavily on the three-point shots down the stretch, but it wasn't the case at Tennessee.

Florida went after the rim, but they didn't finish well enough to make it work.

"The difference in the game was that we had some very good looks and drives, and we didn't finish plays and shots," Donovan said. "That was a big, big factor in the game. We did not take a lot of threes. That's drastically a lower number. We got in the paint and won the paint touches."

The injury news also got worse. With the possibility of Frazier and Will Yeguete returning on Saturday against Alabama, Casey Prather left the game with a bloody face in the final minutes. He had two concussions before the start of the season, and he could miss more time if he has another one.

"He may have a concussion. We don't know yet," Donovan said. "He may be out. It just continues on. I actually didn't even know who else to put in the game."

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