1:00 PM ET, January 31, 2010
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tennessee
The way Tennessee has played of late, continuing its recent success against SEC rival Florida might not be that easy.Trying to avoid their first three-game conference losing streak in five years, the 14th-ranked Volunteers look for a sixth straight victory over the surging Gators on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.Following a seven-game win streak that included a victory over then-No. 1 Kansas and a 3-0 start to SEC play, Tennessee (15-4, 3-2) has dropped its last two games. Four days after a 78-63 loss at Georgia, the Volunteers fell 85-76 to No. 21 Vanderbilt at home Wednesday."If we don't start focusing better, this is going to keep happening," guard Bobby Maze said. "The SEC's not just all of a sudden going to start getting easier."The Vols haven't dropped three straight conference games since Feb. 9-19, 2005. They're also trying to avoid losing consecutive league games at Thompson-Boling since falling to Arkansas and Kentucky in 2006.Florida (15-5, 4-2), meanwhile, has won four in a row -- all in the SEC -- but has given up an average of 87.3 points while losing its last four trips to Knoxville. The Gators have dropped all five meetings with Tennessee since a 94-78 home win Feb. 3, 2007, when they held the nation's No. 1 ranking.To continue their recent dominance in the series, the Volunteers must improve their play on both ends of the floor.Since shooting a season-high 60.8 percent in an 81-55 home win over Auburn on Jan. 14, Tennessee has made 40.1 percent to split its next four contests. The difference the last two games, however, is that Georgia and Vanderbilt shot a combined 53.4 percent.The Vols let the Commodores shoot 50.1 percent -- the first time this season a visiting team made better than 45 percent in Knoxville."That's the common denominator in all of our losses," coach Bruce Pearl said. "While we may have struggled some offensively, it affected our defense."The Vols can regroup against Florida, which shoots 44.3 percent to rank near the bottom of the SEC.Offensively, 6-foot-7 guard J.P. Prince could see more looks for Tennessee after the senior scored a season-high 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting against Vanderbilt.With starter Tyler Smith (11.7 points per game) off the team after being arrested earlier this month and senior Wayne Chism (11.6 ppg) averaging 8.3 points in his last three games, Prince (7.6 ppg) could become a more frequent option."He was always a very effective player and one of the important pieces to our puzzle, but now he is one of our best players and he's playing like it," Pearl told the school's official Web site.Though Chism has struggled, he's averaged 14.0 points in his last three games against the Gators.Florida junior Alex Tyus is averaging 4.8 points in four career games against Tennessee, but 14.9 on 53.7 percent shooting in his last 11 contests. He had 23 in the Gators' 87-71 win over Georgia on Wednesday."Alex has gotten better," coach Billy Donovan said. "It's good to see him have success."Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton each had 21 points as the Gators shot 53.3 percent against the Bulldogs. Walker had 16 in the Gators' 79-75 home loss to the Vols in the teams' most recent meeting March 1.Florida has held opponents to 62.8 points per contest while winning its last four league games after allowing an average of 92.0 in losses to Vanderbilt and then-No. 2 Kentucky.The Gators are in the midst of their longest SEC winning streak since opening league play 11-0 in 2006-07.
|Avg Points Allowed||65.4||64.9|