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.''
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.