9:00 PM ET, February 27, 2007
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tennessee
The road isn't getting any easier for the defending national champions.Florida looks to snap out of its slump Tuesday when it visits Tennessee -- an SEC rival looking to finish its home schedule undefeated for the first time in 31 years.The fifth-ranked Gators (25-4, 12-2) fell two spots in the rankings Monday after a poor performance in Saturday's 66-56 loss at LSU -- their second loss in three contests.The offensive output was the lowest for Florida since a 49-47 win over South Carolina in the final round of last year's SEC tournament. Also on Saturday, the Gators had just seven total assists and got outrebounded 35-22 by the unranked Tigers."We've got to play better," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "That's the biggest concern. There's a lot of factoring you can look into and draw opinions and conclusions, but we're going to have to play better to have a chance to win."Florida did suffer through a rough stretch at a similar time last season, losing three consecutive games from Feb. 18-26, 2006, including a 76-72 home defeat to Tennessee. The Gators rebounded from that slide to win 11 in a row en route to the SEC tournament title and their first national championship."Hopefully we can pick up the way we did last year and turn the season around and do the same thing we did last year and have the same outcome," Florida forward Chris Richard said. "We've got a little slump, but as long as we turn it up when it needs to be turned up, and that starts (Tuesday) night, I think we'll be OK."Florida hopes it can replicate its 94-78 victory over Tennessee at Gainesville on Feb. 3, when the then-No. 1 Gators jumped out to a 27-point halftime lead and cruised after the break.That loss capped a 2-6 stretch for the Volunteers (20-9, 8-6), who have recovered to win five of six games since.Tennessee is 15-0 at Thompson-Boling Arena with four of the victories coming against ranked opponents. If they defeat Florida, the Vols will finish their home schedule undefeated for the first time since going 13-0 in 1975-76."I'm big on history and I've constantly talked to my team all year long about (how) this is an opportunity for you to do something no other Tennessee team has done," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "As each team tries to carve out its niche and create its identity, what is the identity of this team going to be? It's all going to depend on how we finish."Unlike the previous meeting, Tennessee will have Chris Lofton, the conference's top scorer at 20.8 points per game, in the lineup. The junior guard missed the last meeting with the Gators due to a sprained right ankle, but has played in all six games since and appears back at full strength after scoring 31 points in an 83-72 win at Arkansas on Saturday.Lofton had 29 points in the last meeting with Florida at Knoxville -- an 80-76 Tennessee win on Jan. 21, 2006.
|Avg Points Allowed||61.6||74.4|