Most people go to Florida to escape the cold, but the Vols were frigid during their trip to Gainesville on Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee suffered its worst loss of the Cuonzo Martin era in what was one of the poorest offensive showings in school history.
Tennessee’s 67-41 loss was one for the record books, but not for the type of marks that UT (12-7, 3-3 SEC) wants to be remembered for.
UT’s 41 points tied for the program’s sixth-worst offensive performance in the shot clock era (1985-86 to present). Only five other UT squads – two of them Martin’s – have scored fewer points in a game since the implementation of the 35-second shot clock.
The shooting of Tennessee’s guards was abysmal. The starting trio of Antonio Barton, Josh Richardson and Jordan McRae shot a combined 2 of 29 from the field and made just 1 of 13 from 3-point range.
Consider it a monumental off night for the Vols, but also credit No. 6 Florida (17-2, 6-0) for a stingy press/zone combination defense that kept Tennessee from finding its rhythm. The Gators forced 13 turnovers and limited UT to just 26.8 percent shooting from the field as a team.
“I thought they did a great job defending, pressing and speeding us up and forcing us to take tough shots in the half court,” said Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin. “I thought they had a good gameplan with Jarnell (Stokes) and Jeronne (Maymon) in really doubling those guys and forcing our guards to beat them. And, it went well for them.”
Florida was led by 17 points from sophomore Michael Frazier, but the Gators utilized a balanced attack with four starters scoring in double-digits and key reserve Dorian Finney-Smith contributing nine off the bench.
Tennessee’s offensive woes began late in the first half with the Vols hitting just one field goal in the final nine minutes-plus of the opening frame. And though UT only trailed by seven at the break, the Gators didn’t take long to begin putting the Vols away after that.
They went on a 16-4 run in the opening eight minutes of the second half and had a 42-23 advantage with 12:25 left in the contest. UT never threatened again as Florida cruised to the victory, snapping a three-game losing streak against the Vols and winning their 26th-straight home game, extending a school record.
Stokes was UT’s lone bright spot. The junior forward, despite numerous double-teams, still hit 6 of 9 shots for 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season.
“I think they have one of the best team defenses in the entire nation,” said Stokes. “It felt like we were being trapped the entire game. I was somewhat surprised that I got 16 because they were double-teaming the post and forced us to hit shots.”
The Vols return home to Knoxville to face Ole Miss on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga