Vols shock Gators, 65-63

When an eight-point lead gave way to a 3-point deficit in the final minutes of Saturday's game with No. 22 Florida, the Tennessee basketball team was following the same script that produced recent homefloor losses to Kentucky and Louisville.

But this time the Vols altered the ending. This time, it was Tennessee that made the clutch plays in the final minutes, resulting in a heart-stopping 65-63 triumph.

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Vols, now 11-5 overall and 3-4 in SEC play. The Gators, who won the earlier meeting in Gainesville by 38 points, slipped to 13-5 and 4-3.

Speaking on his post-game show, UT head man Buzz Peterson called the victory ''much needed,'' and commended his players for ''staying positive.''

The Vol coach said his players had a team meeting on Friday and he had ''a heart-to-heart'' with them. Whatever he said, it worked. Peterson also praised a partisan UT crowd for ''screaming loud, especially there at the end of the game.''

Scooter McFadgon finished with a game-high 24 points. Brandon Crump added 11 points and 11 rebounds. Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson scored 17 each to pace Florida.

Tennessee led 29-19 late in the first half but, following a technical foul on Florida head man Billy Donovan, the Gators outscored the Vols 12-3 and went to the break down just 32-31, thanks to a desperation 30-footer at the buzzer by Walsh.

This was just the kind of momentum-shifter that killed UT in its earlier home setbacks, but this time the Vols showed resiliency. They scored the first six points of the second half and built eight-point leads at 40-32 and 42-34.

Florida rallied, however, and took a 47-46 lead on a Walsh 3 with 10:26 to play. Roberson followed with another 3, and the Vols appeared ready to fold, trailing 50-46 with 9:42 left.

Down 61-58 with 2:43 remaining, Tennessee got help from an unexpected source. Little-used sub Justin Albrecht fed McFadgon for a layup, then nailed two free throws to give Tennessee a 62-61 lead with 1:33 remaining. Albrecht then took a charge from Walsh.

Two free throws by McFadgon widened the gap to 64-61 with 13.8 seconds left. Roberson missed a long 3-pointer but was fouled by Albrecht. Roberson made two of the three free throws with 0:05 left, narrowing the gap to 64-63. C.J. Watson then hit one of two foul shots as UT went up 65-63 with 0:04.4 remaining.

Florida rushed the ball to frontcourt but Maryville native Lee Humphrey's potential game-tying 19-footer at the buzzer bounded off the rim. It was the kind of last-second shot foes almost invariably make against Tennessee.

The script was familiar. But this time the Vols altered the ending.


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