Hopson turns in great effort against Gators

When the game was on the line, one Tennessee upperclassman was ready to deliver. What is it about the Vols Scotty Hopson that drives the talented player to have good games against Florida? Go "Inside" to get our thoughts on the situation and how critical Hopson's play was for Tennessee against the Gators.

What is it about Florida that gets Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson's game so amplified?

In his two games as a freshman versus Florida, Hopson shot over 52 percent from the floor, and went 6-of-13 from 3-point range. The Hopkinsville, Ky. native averaged 13.5 points in the two wins.

At home versus Florida last year, Hopson erupted for 20 points, his first time surpassing the 20-point mark, and his first outing leading the Volunteers in scoring.

It was a performance that, coupled with a win over Mississippi State, earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the second time.

Statistically, Sunday's game was not as glamorous for the sophomore, who went 5-of-14 from the floor.

The glamour came with 21 seconds remaining and the Volunteers trailing 59-60, in a crucial SEC East battle that could redefine the conference standings.

As the calm Hopson received the in-bounds pass out of the timeout, he carefully positioned himself and nailed a deep two-point shot that would give the Volunteers the win 61-60.

It was a high-arching shot that never seemed to come down, signature Hopson, but when it did it swished through the nylon so smoothly you would have to check the scoreboards to assure it went in.

It was a shot that will undoubtedly make the season highlight reel and imprint Tennessee fans' memories of No. 32.

What is equally impressive as the shot is the composure, considering the play that occurred immediately before Hopson's game-winner.

Florida forward Chandler Parsons was dribbling up court, staring at a clock with less than 35 seconds remaining.

With Hopson closely defending, Parsons launched a three-pointer near the top of the key that would soar over the 6-foot-7 guard and sail beautifully through the net, giving the Gators a 60-59 lead all while silencing the stands of Thompson-Boling Arena.

But rather than blame himself for the defensive play, Hopson redeemed his shortcomings with a shot of his own, a shot reserved for team leaders.

The fallout from Hopson's swish could rain down well into late February, in what looks to be a tight race in the Southeastern Conference.

The win was a massive rebound for Tennessee, which was searching for footing after a rare loss to Georgia on Jan. 23rd was paired with a humiliating dud at home versus Vanderbilt earlier this week.

Beating Florida moved Tennessee to 16-4, 4-2 in the conference, tied for second place with Vanderbilt, with Kentucky sitting high at 20-1.

The loss drops the Gators to 15-6, 4-3 in the conference, with an upcoming road trip to Alabama.

The Gators face a tough remaining slate with games at Kentucky, at Ole Miss and at South Carolina.

The Vols' remaining opponents are even tougher, having to face Kentucky twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Florida in Gainesville.

Needless to say, a loss would have been devastating for the Volunteers' hopes at winning a third consecutive SEC Eastern Division title.

It takes the resolve displayed in the final seconds by Hopson for teams to survive the long, dogged conference schedules every year.

For the Volunteers to outlast the remaining conference schedule, it will take better offensive output that doesn't require late game heroics regularly.

Perhaps the hot-handed Hopson can imagine each of the remaining teams wearing orange and blue.

Whatever it takes right?


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