Gators Can't End their Tennessee Slump

The Florida Gators headed into Sunday's matchup with Tennessee with a chance to end a four-game losing streak to the Vols and a chance to add a big win to their NCAA resume. But things didn't work out for the Gators as they'll head into the final week of the regular season likely with some work to do to impress the NCAA selection committee.

Tennessee took an 11-9 lead with 14:45 left in the first half and never looked back handing the Gators their eighth loss to the Vols in the last nine meetings with a 79-75 win at the O'Dome on Sunday afternoon. Nick Calathes led the Gators with 20 points and Erving Walker provided some key baskets, finishing with 16 in a losing effort.

Florida drops to 21-8 and 8-6 in the SEC. But more importantly, Florida drops a full game behind both South Carolina and Tennessee in the SEC East race with only one week left and they lost a chance to impress the NCAA selection committee with a win against an RPI top 50 team.

After exchanging baskets for the first five minutes, Tennessee went on a 12-2 run to open up the game. With 11:34 left in the opening half, the Gators found themselves down by 10, 21-11. The Vols, who are the worst three-point shooting team in the league, made 5-of-7 early from behind the arc to take control. Meanwhile the Gators struggled early from the floor, and their full court pressure had little impact on the athletic Vols.

Tennessee would take a 29-14 lead before the Gators scored five straight. Chandler Parsons, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, knocked down a three with eight minutes left to cut the lead to 29-19. Florida hit three of their first eight from behind the arc.

A layup by Alex Tyus, who scored six and grabbed six boards, cut the lead to eight, and a long-range jumper from Calathes narrowed the score to seven, 31-24. Dan Werner, who scored 10 with eight rebounds, scored as part of a 10-2 Gator run. Walker hit his first of four three-pointers to cut the lead to 31-29 with 4:41 left in the half.

The Vols would answer with seven straight points, though, and a three-pointer at the buzzer from Josh Tabb gave Tennessee a 12-point lead at the break, 45-33.

The Gators showed little life for most of the second half. Ray Shipman hit a three with 9:04 left to cut the UT lead to eight points, 61-53, as part of a 10-2 Gator run. A few minutes later, Calathes, who finished with seven assists, made a beautiful pass to Parsons for a fast break bucket, trimming the lead again to single digits, 67-59.

With less than four minutes left, Walker and Werner knocked down back-to-back threes to narrow the Vols' lead to just four points, 69-65. On the possession following Werner's three, Florida spoiled two defensive rebounding chances and Tennessee's Wayne Chism was able to get the lead back to six after a 56-second possession by the Vols.

With 1:48 left, Walker knocked down another three, cutting the lead to four, 72-68. Calathes hit a pair of free throws 17-seconds later to get the Gators within three, 73-70. But Chism was able to score through a double-team giving the Vols a five point lead.

Walker hit another three-pointer with 55-seconds left to cut the lead to three again. After an offensive foul was called against the Vols, Walker had a chance to tie the game with 30-seconds left, but his three-point try was partially blocked. Tennessee hit 4-of-6 from the free throw line in the final seconds to secure the win.

Florida now travels to Starkville to face Mississippi State on Wednesday night. They'll be back at the O'Dome to wrap up the regular season next weekend against Kentucky, who like the Vols, have an RPI in the top 50.

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