Not What They Had in Mind

Thirty-four years ago a new TV show was created with a comedy troupe that was dubbed "The Not Ready for Prime Time Players". Saturday Night Live did pretty well despite that self-deprecating moniker. Well on this Saturday night the Gator basketball team may have showed it's not quite ready for prime time in a 79-63 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers.

Tennessee's Tyler Smith knocked down a three-pointer 20 seconds into the contest and the Vols never looked back.

The Tennessee win creates a three-way tie atop the SEC Eastern Division. The Gators fall to 18-4 on the year and 5-2 in the SEC. That matches the conference records of Kentucky and South Carolina and is just a half game better than the Vols who improved to 4-2 in the league. For Tennessee the win was the Vols sixth in seven meetings with the Gators under fourth-year coach Bruce Pearl.

Florida was in trouble shortly after the national anthem. The Gators trailed 5-0 when Nick Calathes fouled Wayne Chism at the 18:22 mark. Eighty seconds later Calathes picked up his second foul and the Gators had a big problem on their hands. They managed to hang in there for a while and trailed just 24-17 after an offensive rebound basket from Chandler Parsons, but Tennessee scored the next nine points to push their lead to 16. A Gator basket was followed by another Vols bucket from long range before an exchange of three-pointers in the final minute made it a 39-22 score at intermission.

The Gators had 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes as opposed to nine made baskets. If the lousy ball protection wasn't enough the Gators added to their misery by missing all four free throw chances in the first half. Meanwhile Tennessee had a field day shooting over the top of Florida's rather passive zone defense. The Vols, near the bottom of the SEC in three-point shooting, made eight in the opening half basically making rather meaningless Florida's surprising plus-six advantage on the boards.

Tennessee opened the second half on a 10-4 run pushing the lead to 23 points before Florida finally started to play. The Gators outscored Tennessee 28-15 to close to within 10 points (64-54) with 3:54 to play. The Gators forced a tough shot that was missed, but Florida's Dan Werner could not corral the rebound. Tennessee ended up with two free throws on the second chance opportunity. A few moments later Florida had the ball down 11 but instead of cutting the deficit the single digits the Gators turned it over for the 18th time and that was about it.

Calathes led the Gators with 21 points, 15 in the second half while Parsons scored 15 and grabbed nine rebounds. However Florida got little from their veterans as Dan Werner and Walter Hodge combined for 11 points and five turnovers.

Tennessee made a season high 12 baskets from behind the arc, making 43 percent on the night. Coming into the game the Vols averaged six three-pointers a game and just 31 percent accuracy. Freshman Scotty Hopson made four of those shots on his way to a team high 20 points. Forward Tyler Smith (16/9) and Wayne Chism (12/9) outplayed the Gators big men throughout the evening.

The Gators return to action Tuesday night with a rematch against South Carolina. The Gamecocks are one of the surprise teams in the SEC this year and will be coming off a big win at Kentucky. It's a game which promises to set the tone for the rest of this season.

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