Gators expecting different game from Vols

Florida's most dominant defensive effort this season came against Tennessee just over two weeks ago. The Gators held the Volunteers to 26.8 percent shooting on field goals and 5.3 percent from behind the three-point line, keeping Tennessee to just 41 points. Florida is focusing this week on forgetting that game and knowing that the Volunteers will play with a new energy on Tuesday.

The statistics from the January 25 matchup are eye-popping. The 5.3 percent from behind the three-point line was the lowest Florida has ever allowed a conference opponent and the second lowest ever since Billy Donovan took over 18 seasons ago. It was the fifth time under Donovan that the Gators allowed an opponent to make just one three-pointer. It was also the lowest three-point percentage for a Tennessee team in research that goes back to the 1996-97 season.

Tennessee managed to shoot 26.8 percent from the field against Florida in the first matchup, the second lowest by a Southeastern Conference opponent since Donovan took over in Gainesville. It was the worst shooting performance from the Volunteers since they shot 26.3 percent against South Carolina in 1997.

Tennessee leading scorer Jordan McRae came into the game averaging 19.2 points, but the Florida defense held him to 1-15 from the field. Across college basketball this season, Fordham's Jon Severe is the only player to take more shots in a game while making just one, when he went 1-21 against St. John's.

Every defensive number was in Florida's favor. It was the recipe for the 26-point blowout win in Gainesville.

But Tuesday will be different.

The Gators know that Tennessee will shoot a higher percentage on Tuesday. The Volunteers play better at home and are searching for a resume-building win for their NCAA Tournament hopes. A win over No. 3 Florida would certainly help their chances.

"We know it's going to be a different game. I can feel that," Florida forward Will Yeguete said. "We just need to do a better job defensively."

The film from the first matchup still showed room for improvement. Donovan said after the game that he was happy with how his defense played, but they did have breakdowns that Tennessee just missed shots and couldn't take advantage of.

"I think it's a combination of there were some areas we did a really, really good job and there were also some areas where they missed some shots and had some pretty decent looks," Donovan said. "I don't think that during the course of the game you're just going to shut a team out where they're never getting up a good shot. There's going to be some times where they have gotten good shots."

Florida held Tennessee's guards to 2-29 from the field but knows that will change on Tuesday. McRae came into the first matchup averaging 19.2 points, and despite his 1-15 game, he has actually raised his average to 19.3 points per game in the last two weeks. The expectation is that he and the rest of the Volunteers will come out with renewed energy and be more effective on the offensive end.

"If you look at their numbers at home from the 3-point line, they're pretty incredible," Donovan said. "They're not going to shoot that kind of percentage like they did. They're at home. They're more comfortable. I think that they are a very, very dangerous, good 3-point shooting team. If you look at their home stats they shoot a very high percentage."

The biggest challenge Tennessee presents comes in the paint. Big men Jarnell Stokes (6-8, 260) and Jeronne Maymon (6-8, 260) provide similar builds that rely on their toughness and strength near the basket. Florida's Patric Young (6-9, 240) can provide the biggest threat on the Florida roster, but smaller big men like the bigger players could push around Dorian Finney-Smith, Will Yeguete and Chris Walker.

That's what happened in the first matchup, when Tennessee outrebounded the Gators 40-35, collecting 16 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points.

"Just staying strong inside," Yeguete said about the key to the game. "Once they're close to the basket, they do a good job positioning and getting the ball, so we just got to make sure that we push them away."

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