Knoxville, TN (Sports Network) - Fresh off the longest game in school history, the Tennessee Volunteers get back to the grind on Tuesday night when they welcome the first-place Florida Gators to Thompson-Boling Arena for an SEC showdown.
Florida dropped a tough road bout last Tuesday when it lost at Missouri, 63-60, but it was able to bounce back on Saturday night when it downed Arkansas at home, 71-54. The Gators are now 22-4 on the year and they sit alone in first place in the SEC with a 12-2 mark, two games up on second-place Kentucky and Alabama, with four games to play.
Meanwhile, Tennessee has quietly been the SEC's hottest team, winning five straight games to catapult to 16-10 overall and 8-6 in league action. The Vols were put to the test at Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon, but after battling for four overtimes, they came out on the positive end of a 93-85 decision.
Tennessee has won two straight games versus Florida to extend its lead in the all-time series to 71-52. The Vols also have a convincing advantage over the Gators in Knoxville (43-15).
After leading by just four points at intermission, Florida began the second half on a 25-9 run to pull away from the Razorbacks. The team shot a solid 46.8 percent from the field, but the main reason for the win was its impressive defensive effort, as it held Arkansas below 37 percent field goal shooting. Mike Rosario led the way with 15 points, Patric Young manned the paint with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy netted 12 points apiece in the triumph. Above everything else, the Gators have risen to elite status this season thanks to their scoring defense, which ranks third in all of Division I in allowing only 53.0 ppg. The club's offensive attack has done more than enough in support, pouring in 73.7 ppg on an SEC- best 49.2 percent field goal efficiency. UF is without a true superstar but instead relies on plenty of scoring depth. Rosario (13.0 ppg), Boynton (12.9 ppg) and Murphy (12.5 ppg) are all neck-and-neck for the scoring lead, with the trio combining to drain 156 3-pointers at a 38.5 percent clip. Young is solid in the trenches with 10.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 1.7 bpg, while Scottie Wilbekin (9.1 ppg) gets others involved with his 5.4 apg.
Tennessee was able to extend its marathon session with Texas A&M over the weekend with game-tying field goals in final 20 seconds of both the first and second overtimes, and it finally claimed the victory by going on a 9-0 run during the fourth extra session. It was a below average shooting game for the Vols (.394), but they helped make up for it with a solid 27-of-39 showing from the foul line. Trae Golden sparked the victory with a career-high 32 points, 15 of which came during the overtime periods. Jordan McRae netted 23 points, while Jarnell Stokes tallied his 12th double-double of the season with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Rounding out the effort was Skylar McBee, who scored 12 points in 48 minutes off the bench. The prolonged game helped UT's season scoring average, which at 66.4 ppg ranks in the middle in the SEC, although its scoring defense (62.8 ppg) is considered above-average. McRae is the team's top outside threat with 14.9 ppg, while Stokes is one of the conference's most feared big men, logging 12.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg and 1.3 bpg, all while shooting greater than 54 percent from the field. Golden chips in 12.3 ppg and has twice as many assists (99) as turnovers (49).