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Tennessee 62, Florida 57: Gators’ fight not enough on Rocky Top

The Gators tried gamely, but simply didn’t hit enough shots.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

This loss wasn’t like the others of late for the Florida Gators.

In this game, a 62-57 loss to Tennessee, the Gators played generally inspired defense, drove the ball, worked hard on both ends, and fought like hell to try to get a win.

It was still a loss.

The Gators couldn’t find an answer for Grant Williams, who scored 23 points on 13 shots, or Admiral Schofield, who had 16 points of his own, and trailed for almost the entirety of the game in Knoxville.

Tennessee never led by more than 10 points, and a series of Florida runs would cut the Vols’ lead to a single point on more than one occasion in the second half, but the Gators simply couldn’t muster enough offense against a stingy Volunteers defense to ever take and hold a lead.

That was mostly the fault of simple poor shooting, as the Gators made just 35 percent of their shots and 25 percent of their threes. And while many of the twos were contested by Tennessee’s talented frontcourt, the Gators missed more open threes than they usually do — and, more importantly, than they could afford to, in a game like this.

Jalen Hudson led Florida with 13 points, but was just 2-for-6 from three, as was Egor Koulechov (seven points). Chris Chiozza and Keith Stone each chipped in 11 points; combined, they were 2-for-8 from three.

And yet: The difference in the game could have been Florida allowing a 6-0 run over the first few minutes of the game, which came with such lowlights as Stone fumbling away a possession by heading a ball into the stands after tripping coming around a screen.

From that point on, it was Florida 57, Tennessee 56, with the Gators fighting to stay even with one of the SEC’s best teams.

On this night, that fight was not enough.