Instant Analysis: Florida stuns No. 2 Tennessee 67-54

Feb 1, 2023 | 1 comment

(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)

Coming off a 14-point loss to No. 7 Kansas State, a game in which the Gators looked simply outmatched, Todd Golden & Co. aimed to flip that coin on its head back in Gainesville Wednesday night against an even higher-ranked opponent. And, well, that’s exactly what they did. A defensive masterclass and big games from key vets bolstered the Orange & Blue to the 67-54 upset win over No. 2 Tennessee.

Inside the Gators’ Instant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: Colin Castleton found Will Richard for the tough fastbreak layup with under two minutes remaining to put the Gators up 63-54. Both Castleton and Richard were huge for Florida. Castleton contributed 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Richard put up 9 points and 7 rebounds himself.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: In addition to culminating _ steals as a team, Florida’s defense also stole the show. It was plainly exceptional. There’s no other way to say it. The Gators reached their potential on that end of the floor, and, man, was it a sight to see. They held the Volunteers to just 21 first-half points on 29% from the field and 20% from deep. They also forced 8 Tennessee turnovers and held the Orange & White to just a pair of free throws in the first 20 minutes. In the second half,

THESE STATS DON’T LIE: From when there was 8:41 remaining in the game to 7:25, Florida went on an 8-0 run which was capped off by an incredible finger-roll and 1 by Castleton. This run ended up being 10-0 and is what propelled the Gators to their eventual win. The O-Dome was nearly as loud as I’ve ever heard it during this stretch. In a nip-and-tuck game like this was, it’s those little runs that end up being the deciding factors. And, thankfully for Florida, this one was enough for them to build a lead they could sustain.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: Sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler has been putting together a nice season for the Volunteers. And it was his matchup against Kyle Lofton at the PG spot that proved to be huge in this SEC battle. Ziegler put up 15 points to lead Tennessee, while Lofton had a solid all-around game himself with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

WHAT A PLAY: To close out the first half, following a failed Tennessee alley-oop on the other end, Kyle Lofton found Alex Fudge under the basket with just seconds remaining for the two-hand slam.The play gave Florida a 27-21 lead that they’d carry with them into the locker room. It riled the fans up and put all momentum in the Gators’ favor to open the final 20 minutes — momentum that’d eventually prove crucial down the stretch on their way to pulling off the upset.

UP NEXT: The Gators’ (13-9, 6-3) tough stretch of games will continue Saturday night at 8:30 when they face Kentucky (15-7, 6-3) in Lexington. You can catch it on ESPN.

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Tags: BBIA22

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