Vols end skid, dump Gators

It turns out there was nothing wrong with the Tennessee Vols that a visit from the Florida Gators couldn't cure.

The Big Orange stormed to a 33-17 first-half lead and coasted to a 79-63 victory Saturday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, improving UT coach Bruce Pearl's head-to-head record against Billy Donovan to 6-1.

Tennessee's befuddling mastery of the Gators was never better illustrated than in this game.

Consider:

- The Vols (13-7 overall, 4-2 SEC) had lost four of their previous five home games, while Florida (18-4, 5-2) had won 12 of its previous 13 games.

- Tennessee won by hitting 3-pointers and forcing turnovers, two glaring weaknesses in recent weeks.

- The Big Orange star was freshman Scotty Hopson (8 of 12 field goals, 4 of 6 from 3, 20 points), whose recent performances had been mediocre at best.

"We talked about being more aggressive in looking for his shot," head coach Bruce Pearl said on the post-game show, adding that he told Hopson it was vital he get to the paint.

"Scotty can get there," Pearl added. "He didn't get bounced off the ball as much. He got a few loose balls. I think Scotty Hopson really, really grew up tonight."

Spurred by a rowdy crowd and the opportunity to show off for ESPN's GameDay crew, the Vols showed a level of intensity not exhibited in their recent outings. The Gators simply could not match that intensity – appearing rattled as they made just 9 of 25 shots and committed 12 turnovers en route to a 39-22 halftime deficit.

Tennessee extended the bulge to 23 points (49-26) on a Hopson 3 with 16:03 to go. The Vols still led by 22 (59-37) when they got a bit sloppy, enabling Florida to make a 13-2 run that whittled the gap to 11 (61-50) with 7:08 to play.

Hopson hit a clutch 8-footer from the left side, however, and Tennessee made 7 of 9 foul shots over the final four minutes to close the deal.

Tyler Smith chipped in 16 points and 9 rebounds for the Vols. Wayne Chism added 12 points and Bobby Maze 11. J.P. Prince contributed 9 assists.

Nick Calathes, limited by early fouls to nine minutes and six points in the first half, scored 15 second-half points and led the Gators with 21. Chandler Parsons followed with 15.

Tennessee shot 49.1 percent (29 of 59) from the field, while limiting Florida to 42.3 percent (22 of 52). The Vols drained a season-high 12 treys (in 28 attempts) against the Florida zone and committed just 11 turnovers. The Gators, conversely, made just 7 of 23 from 3 and committed 18 turnovers.

"We did some things that definitely bothered 'em," Pearl said. "Defensively, we switched the ball screens. We'd never done that against Florida ... but we had to find a way to be able to guard them.

"They can beat you from 3 but they can't beat you from 2, so if you switch all they're going to do is drive or post up.... But they couldn't post our guards ... and they couldn't go by us."


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