Knoxville, TN – A game-high 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting from John Fulkerson led the way as Tennessee defeated Florida for the fourth consecutive time. The win also marks the Vols’ 50th regular-season SEC victory under fifth-year head coach Rick Barnes.
Vols freshman Josiah-Jordan James stuffed the stat sheet, recording 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 40 minutes.
The Vols began the contest red hot from the floor, connecting on eight of 14 field goals and forcing the Gators into six turnovers by the 8:00 media timeout.
James connected on his first two 3-point attempts and led the Vols with eight points through the game’s opening 10 minutes.
At the six-minute mark of the first half, UT senior Jordan Bowden nailed a 3-point shot, his first of 10 points on the afternoon. Then, a block by James on the defensive end, followed by a made triple by Santiago Vescovi extended the Tennessee lead to 26-14 and forced a Florida timeout .
The Vols’ defense was suffocating in the opening stanza, holding the Gators to zero made field goals in the final 9:48 of the first half.
Freshman Davonte Gaines got in on the defensive action, maintaining Tennessee’s momentum with a big block in the half’s final minute.
Tennessee held a 32-17 advantage at halftime, shooting at a 48 percent clip (14-29) in the opening 20 minutes, with James leading all scorers with 10 points at the break.
The Vols also dished out nine assists and forced 11 Florida turnovers in the first half. The Gators’ 17 points were their season-low for any half this season, with their previous low being 20 points in the first half against UConn.
The Florida field-goal drought extended to 10:42 to start the second half.
An alley-oop from Vescovi to Fulkerson snapped a quick 5-0 Florida run. Then, with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game, Fulkerson threw down a two-handed slam to increase the Vols’ run to 8-0 and give them a 48-29 advantage.
Fulkerson made a much-needed jumper with the shot clock winding down, before Vescovi blocked a 3-point attempt with just under six minutes to go.
Leading 55-54 with under 2:30 left in the contest, the Vols in-bounded the ball with two seconds remaining on the shot clock, before Fulkerson buried his first career 3-point field goal. The momentum from that sequence carried Tennessee to victory.
To seal the win, Fulkerson grabbed an offensive rebound and authoritatively made another dunk, further energizing a Thompson-Boling Arena packed with 19,743 fans.
Jordan Bowden’s two made triples moved him to seventh on Tennessee’s all-time 3-point makes list, with 184 career made 3-pointers. He is tied with VFL and current Washington Wizards rookie, Admiral Schofield.
Leap Day for Air Pons
SEC Defensive Player of the Year candidate Yves Pons finished the afternoon with two blocks. He increased his season total to 70 blocks and is now just four rejections away from breaking UT’s single season blocks record with two regular-season games left to play.
The five-point win marked Tennessee’s 13th home victory over Florida over the past 16 meetings between the two foes in Knoxville, dating to 2003.
Next Up For The Tennessee Vols
The Tennessee Vols basketball team travels north to Lexington as they face the Kentucky Wildcats in their final road game of the season. Tipoff is slated for 8:00pm CT on ESPN.