The kill shot

Wednesday night's game at Florida is big for Tennessee. But it's do-or-die for Florida.

A Vol victory would clinch the SEC East championship, even if the Vols lose their three remaining games.

A win Wednesday would move the Big Orange to 11-2 in league play and drop Florida to 8-5. Even if the Gators won their final three and UT lost its final three – leaving both teams with 11-5 records – Tennessee would be the division champ by virtue of two head-to-head wins against the Gators. The Vols prevailed 80-76 on Jan. 21.

Clearly, there's more pressure on Florida than Tennessee. So, whereas the game represents a golden opportunity for the Vols, it represents a must-win situation for the Gators.

Asked Monday if he has discussed the implications of Wednesday night's game with his players, Vol head coach Bruce Pearl nodded.

"We talk about everything," he said. "They're going to read about it anyway, so we talk about what the opportunities are. But we won't spend a lot of time with it because we've got to spend the time on HOW we can do it.

"We'll talk about it a little bit but we'll spend more time on the things we've got to do to win the game."

Tennessee played one of its better games of the season in the earlier meeting with Florida. The Vols limited the Gators to 31.6 percent shooting from 3-point range and forced 19 turnovers. They outrebounded the taller foe 40-35 and outscored Florida by 10 (44-34) in the second half.

"Obviously, we played extremely well against Florida," Pearl noted. "It was, without question, a special historic win over a team that was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country."

Making the night historic was a partisan UT crowd of 24,011 that roared from opening tip to final horn. The Vols won't have the crowd on their side Wednesday, though. The Gators enjoy a huge homecourt advantage at the cozy O'Connell Center.

"It was just a great effort from our basketball team," Pearl said of the Jan. 21 game. "The same will be required to be competitive at Florida. We know how difficult an environment that is."


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