Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) owns the longest active winning streak of any Division I team. This also marks the biggest winning streak of Rick Barnes’ 32-year head coaching career, surpassing the 17-game string that started Texas’ 2009-10 season.
Florida (12-11, 4-6) has lost three straight and four of its last five.
Tennessee’s winning streak includes a 78-67 victory at Florida on Jan. 12. Immediately after that game ended, all five Tennessee players on the floor performed a “Gator chomp” in a mock version of the cheer favored by Florida fans.
Although Tennessee’s players refrained from a similar celebration Saturday, much of the sellout crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena crowd started doing the Gator chomp in the final minute and continued it as the final horn sounded.
Tennessee entered the day leading the SEC in scoring (86.0) while Florida had the SEC’s top scoring defense (63.4). Tennessee ended up below its scoring average but still won that matchup by shooting 52.8 percent (28 of 53), including 59.3 percent (16 of 27) in the second half.
Admiral Schofield scored 14 points, Jordan Bowden had 13 and Jordan Bone added 10 for the Vols. Noah Locke scored 17, Jalen Hudson had 15 and KeVaughn Allen added 11 for the Gators.
Tennessee held Florida to a total of three points for a stretch of over nine minutes, enabling the Vols to turn an 8-5 deficit into a 22-11 advantage. Tennessee led by as many as 16 later in the first half before Florida rallied to get within 36-30 at the intermission.
The Gators pulled to within 40-36 with 17:37 left, but the Vols answered with a 12-2 run that included consecutive 3-pointers from Lamonte’ Turner. After Florida scored seven straight points to get the margin down to seven, Tennessee responded with a 9-0 run that featured another Turner 3-pointer plus two dunks from Schofield.
Tennessee played without reserve swingman Yves Pons, who had suffered a facial injury while colliding with a teammate during Thursday’s practice.
Florida: The Gators are barely above .500 but entered this game 42nd in the NET rankings, indicating their postseason chances weren’t over yet. But three straight losses to Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee have dealt a big blow to their hopes for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The Gators still have two games with No. 21 LSU plus road trips to Alabama and No. 5 Kentucky.
Tennessee: After struggling a bit Tuesday in a 72-60 victory over Missouri, the Vols’ offense was back in form. Tennessee has shot over 50 percent in three of its last four games.
Florida hosts Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Tennessee hosts South Carolina on Wednesday.