It wasn't a pretty game, but Florida withstood a heck of a challenge from Tennessee and survived 56-49.
The Gators had a slow start in the first half again, just like yesterday. UT is better than Missouri is, though, so the Vols were better able to make Florida pay. Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon dominated inside, disrupted UF's offense, and became the first SEC team to lead Florida by double digits. Only Scottie Wilbekin had a decent first half for Florida, and he hit a three just before the half to cut the Tennessee lead to seven.
In the second half, Florida was a much more energized team. It cut the lead to about nothing almost immediately, and after it took the lead with nine minutes to go, it wouldn't trail the rest of the way. Tennessee went cold after the half, partly due to the Gators' defense and partly just due to missing shots it made in the first half. The Vols scored just 14 points after intermission, less than half of what they scored in the first and their lowest total in any half this season.
This game was the kind that Florida has seldom had to deal with this year, and it's the kind a coach loves to have just before heading into the Big Dance. It's a reminder for UF that it can't flip the switch and just roll through anyone. For Tennessee, it's still encouraging despite the loss. UT took the No. 1 team to the limit, coming just short. It shows that it will be able to hang with anyone it may encounter in March Madness.
Florida will take on the winner of Kentucky-Georgia in the SEC Tournament final tomorrow.