Knoxville, Tenn. • Florida’s smothering defense returned to form just in time for the third-ranked Gators to keep their winning streak going.
After falling behind in the first half due to Tennessee’s strong shooting, the Gators stepped up their defense down the stretch and won 67-58 Tuesday night for their 16th consecutive victory. Florida also beat the Volunteers in Knoxville for only the second time in its last nine attempts.
Florida had allowed opponents to shoot just 38.4 percent in its first 22 games of the season before Alabama shot 55 percent in a 78-69 loss to the Gators on Saturday. Tennessee shot 62.5 percent in the first half Tuesday, but the Volunteers made just 29.2 percent (7 of 24) of their attempts after halftime.
“We didn’t press a lot in the first half,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “The game I thought for us just got kind of stagnant. ... We wanted the game going up and down the floor, to really get into a racing game, and I thought we pressed predominantly most of the second half. We didn’t turn them over a lot, but it was just disruptive in terms of flow.”
Scottie Wilbekin had 21 points and six assists and Michael Frazier II added 11 points for Florida (22-2, 11-0 SEC). Wilbekin and Frazier both made key 3-pointers down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
Jarnell Stokes had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Tennessee (15-9, 6-5),
No. 4 Wichita State 78, Southern Illinois 67 • At Wichita, Kan., Ron Baker scored 19 points, Cleanthony Early added 18 and Wichita State overcame a sloppy start to beat Southern Illinois and remain unbeaten. Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter added 12 points apiece for the Shockers.
• No. 3 Florida 67,Tennessee 58
• No. 4 Wichita St. 78,S. Illinois 67
• Wyoming 68, No. 5 San Diego State 62 (Note • Game had just finished at press time).
• No. 15 Michigan 70,No. 22 Ohio St. 60
• No. 19 Texas 87,Oklahoma St. 68