No. 6 Tennessee basketball hammered by shorthanded Florida in blowout loss

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Yves Pons and Omar Payne simultaneously reached the the opening tipoff between Tennessee basketball and Florida on Tuesday night.

The duo locked hands at the ball, sending Pons staggering and tumbling to the court.

Tennessee never got up.

The No. 6 Vols were hammered by the shorthanded Gators in a 75-49 loss at the O’Connell Center in Gainesville. 

John Fulkerson had 15 points to lead Tennessee (10-2, 4-2 SEC). He was the lone Vol in double-digits against UF (7-4, 4-3), which scored the most points against UT this season.

Victor Bailey Jr., Tennessee's leading scorer, had four points on 1-for-12 shooting, as the Vols had a season-low 49 points.

Tennessee basketball owned inside

Florida did not have its top big man Colin Castleton due to an ankle injury. But the Gators still dominated Tennessee inside throughout the game.

UF had 44 rebounds and 42 points in the paint. The Gators had 25 rebounds and 22 points in the paint first half. They had 12 first-half offensive rebounds on 18 missed shots.

The Gators shot 49.2% fueled by a dominant inside attack.

The Gators also did not have guard Scottie Lewis, who has not played since Jan. 9. UF guard Keyontae Johnson, the preseason SEC player of the year, has not played since collapsing on the court during Florida’s game against Florida State on Dec. 12.

Florida smashes Tennessee’s brief comeback attempt 

Tennessee fell behind by 20 with 14:15 to play, but whittled Florida’s lead to 55-44 at the 9:56 mark. 

Florida scored 13 straight points and UT did not score again for 4:30 — a stretch defined by miserable possession on both ends of the court.

E.J. Anosike got a steal, but Fulkerson picked up an offensive foul. Florida’s Tre Mann made a floater before UT failed to cross halfcourt on back-to-back possessions. 

Florida’s Tyree Appleby knocked the ball away from Bailey, then made an open-court layup. UF’s Anthony Duruji stole the ball from Anosike. He hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to return Florida’s lead to 63-44.

The Gators took a 68-44 lead before Fulkerson converted a three-point play to break the drought.

Jaden Springer did not play for Vols

Tennessee freshman Jaden Springer was available Tuesday, but did not play due to a sprained ankle suffered against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Springer originally hurt his ankle in UT's loss to Alabama on Jan. 2.

He rolled on a layup attempt in the second half against the Commodores and had to be helped off the court. He returned in UT's 81-61 win

Up next

Tennessee is scheduled to host Missouri on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network). The Vols blew out the Tigers 73-53 in their SEC opener on Dec. 30 in Columbia, Missouri. 

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.