Video highlights from Tennesse's win at Florida, Feb. 11, 2011
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you get a dumb technical foul and the home team swishes not one but two 3-pointers in the final 6 seconds, that usually means one thing:
It's going to be a long, grim trip home.
Saturday was a rare and glorious exception for Tennessee — a team that knows plenty about long, grim trips home.
Even Kenny Boynton's 3-point shot at the buzzer couldn't salvage a happy ending for the No. 8 Florida Gators. When the handshakes were done, the visiting Vols exited the O'Connell Center Court slapping high-fives with happy Tennessee fans who had made their way to the edge of the stands.
The Vols had put this one out of harm's way with time to spare. The final score showed 75-70, but it wasn't really that close.
"This," said coach Cuonzo Martin, "was probably the first game we won across the board.
"We won it on both ends of the floor."
The Vols won it on offense, executing their half-court game as well as they have all season. They shot 48 percent and outscored Florida in the paint 36-14.
"We took (only) 11 threes," said Martin, "which is impressive not to settle for those shots."
The Vols won it on defense. The Gators were
shooting in the 30s most of the first half and finished at 42.6 percent.
Leading 56-46 midway through the second half and the game very much in the balance, the Vols got stops on eight consecutive possessions to survive a scoring lull of their own.
"They defended us better than we defended them," said Florida coach Billy Donovan.
"We could never get down the lane against them and they got down the lane against us all the time."
Tennessee won it on the boards. The final rebounding count was 36-30. Florida didn't have a second-chance point until inside the final two minutes.
The Vols won it with patience. Trae Golden had seven assists but the assist of the game belonged to Jarnell Stokes.
Tennessee led 62-50 and took possession by rebounding a missed Gator 3-pointer with 3:20 to play.
The Vols ran the clock and passed and cut and then passed and cut some more. At last the ball found Stokes inside, but so did the Gator defense. Stokes deftly flipped a pass to a cutting Jeronne Maymon for a layup with 2 seconds on the shot clock and 2:46 on the game clock.
That was the dagger. The crowd of 12,249 suddenly decided it was time to think about getting a good seat at Red Lobster or Olive Garden.
Except for the scattering of UT fans. They stuck around to put the exclamation point on the end to Florida's 19-game home-court winning streak and Tennessee's first road win of the Martin Era.
Before leaving the court, Martin scooped up his daughter Addison in his arms. Road wins are so precious, but he said he saw this one coming.
Over the previous 48 hours he felt his team had finally reached a mental and physical plateau that would get the job done.
"At our place against Florida (in a 67-56 win on Jan. 7), I thought we did a lot of things well.
"But to come to a hostile environment like this against a great opponent, it's a great feeling for our guys to go home and get off that airplane with a W."
First, however, it's a great thing to get on that airplane with a W.
"Yeah," said junior Kenny Hall, "we get to go home with a big smile on our faces."
Which wasn't the case after Oakland and Charleston and Memphis, after Starkville and Athens, after Nashville and Lexington.
Those trips were what?
"Long," said Hall. "The feeling of losing seems to make the trip that much longer. And the nights that much harder to sleep.
"You're thinking there are so many things you could have done differently to change the outcome."
"Those trips," said Golden, "were filled with a lot of regret.
"At Mississippi State, turning the ball over. Georgia, we should have won that. Just so many regrets.
"Now we go home and know we carried this one out and got the victory. It feels great."