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No. 24 Florida surges past Tennessee in second half

No. 24 Florida surges past Tennessee in second half
Published On: Sat, Jan 07
Dec 19, 2014; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers forward Willie Carmichael III (24) dunks during the game against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee won, 61-58. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't the start Florida coach Mike White was hoping for, but he'll take the finish.

Senior forward Justin Leon scored a career-high 19 points and sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen fueled a hot-shooting second half as No. 24 Florida fought off a gritty effort from Tennessee in an 83-70 win on Saturday at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.

After hitting just 2 of 12 3-pointers in the first half, Florida caught fire in the second half. The Gators (12-3, 3-0 SEC) connected on seven of their eight 3-pointers in the second half, including four by Allen, who finished with a game-high 23 points.

Florida shot 67 percent from the floor in the second half, allowing the Gators to bounce back from a shaky start.

"We overcame not getting our share of the loose balls with a tremendous second half offensively," White said.

Tennessee led at halftime and hung with Florida until late in the second half. Florida led 66-63 with five minutes to play but closed the game with a 17-7 run.

"At the end, I had no idea what we were doing," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told reporters after the Vols' second straight SEC loss. "I don't, and that's my fault."

Tennessee sophomore Admiral Schofield posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with four minutes left in the game. Freshman guard Jordan Bowden finished with 18 points for the Vols (8-7, 1-2).

A straightaway 3-pointer from Leon capped a 7-2 run, gave the Gators a 49-45 lead and forced Barnes to call timeout with 13:20 left in the second half. But Florida wasn't able to pull away until late.

"You wish he'd fall into a few more open 3s a game," White said of Leon, "because he's shooting the ball so well. I thought he hit some timely shots for us."

So did Allen. The Gators' leading scorer hit consecutive 3-pointers down the stretch and senior reserve Canyon Barry knocked down some clinching free throws for Florida.

"KeVaughn Allen has been in a really good flow for three or four weeks," White said. "Playing with a lot of confidence and shooting the ball at a really high clip. He made some really big ones for us. He hit one really difficult one off a handoff. He's really coming into his own."

After suffering a bad loss in Knoxville last season, Florida put an added emphasis on Saturday's visit from Tennessee.

The Gators wore all black uniforms in the first "blackout" in the newly renovated O'Connell Center. But the hype didn't translate to a focused start for White's Gators, who were careless with the ball and fired up numerous bad shots in the first half.

"Obviously, we had a rough loss to them last year at their place," White told reporters after Saturday's win. "But we kind of wanted to get them back.

"If we just trust the scouting report and we play hard on defense ... we kind of got hurt on the glass and with the turnovers in the first half. So second half, just clean that up and play Florida basketball."

Tennessee led for the majority of the first half but never by much and also hurt itself with turnovers.

"Again, 19 turnovers, you're not going to win games on the road turning the ball over like that," Barnes told reporters.

Schofield came off the bench to provide an early spark for the Volunteers, who led by six points in the first half and took a 33-32 lead into halftime. Schofield led all scorers with eight points in the first 20 minutes.

"We were just a step late at everything in the second half," Barnes said.

NOTES: Tennessee committed 19 turnovers. ... Saturday's game was only Florida's second SEC game at the newly reopened O'Connell Center, which underwent a $64.5 million renovation. ... Florida G Canyon Barry, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry, celebrated his 23rd birthday. ... Tennessee is at South Carolina on Wednesday. Florida travels to Alabama on Tuesday.

Read the complete news article here...

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