Video highlights from Tennesse's win at Florida, Feb. 11, 2011
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tennessee won its first road game of the season, and the Vols did so in decisive fashion over No. 8-ranked Florida.
UT (13-12, 5-5 SEC) scored a 75-70 men's basketball victory against Florida (19-6, 7-3) before a sellout crowd of 12,249 at the O'Connell Center on Saturday afternoon to sweep the season series with the Gators.
While the outcome surprised many — Florida was favored by 12½ points and had won 19 straight at home — Vols coach Cuonzo Martin saw it coming.
Martin said Friday he liked his team's chance of winning, and he told his players the same thing hours before the tip.
"I told the guys this morning, today's the first time we're really ready to win a road game," said Martin, who has won two of his past three games against top-25 teams. "I told them we had the necessary pieces and the right mind-set."
Tennessee, previously 0-7 on the road, used a 17-4 run in the first half to take a 12-point lead. Florida didn't get closer than nine points until the final 30 seconds.
Trae Golden scored 17 points and had seven assists, Jeronne Maymon scored 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Skylar McBee had 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and Jordan McRae added 12 points and tied his career high with six rebounds.
The Vols held a 41-30 lead at intermission after going up by as many as 17 at the 2:27 mark of the first half on a Maymon bucket that made it 39-22.
Florida's last lead was at 8-7, before Jarnell Stokes' steal led to a Golden basket at the 14:14 mark and ignited the pivotal 17-4 run that gave UT the lead for good.
Gators sixth man Will Yeguete, a defensive and rebounding specialist, suffered a concussion on the play and didn't return to action.
McRae capped the Vols' scoring burst with a free throw that made it 24-12 at the 10-minute mark of the opening half.
It was Stokes' first action since suffering a sprained wrist in last Tuesday's practice. He scored four points and had two rebounds in 11 minutes after sitting out Wednesday's 69-57 home win over South Carolina.
Stokes, who made an official visit to Florida and considered signing with the Gators before choosing the Vols in December, said he didn't feel any pain.
"Once the adrenaline is going, you really don't feel it," Stokes said. "The only thing is it has limited my practice time a little bit."
Martin would have preferred to not play him.
"I would have wanted to keep him out, but he was hungry to play," Martin said. "The hand is tender."
As it turned out, so was the Gators' psyche after they suffered a 78-58 defeat at the hands of No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
While the Vols shot 48 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, Florida was held to 42.6-percent shooting and finished 11-of-30 (36.7 percent) from three.
UT's defense was in lock-down mode down the stretch, holding the Gators without a point for eight consecutive possessions after Florida had drawn within 10 with 12 minutes left on an Erik Murphy basket. Florida didn't get another field goal until there was 4:45 left when Patric Young scored to cut UT's lead to 62-50.
The Vols went 9-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line in the final 2½ minutes to seal it. Tennessee also beat the Gators 67-56 in Knoxville on Jan. 7 in both teams' SEC opener.
"It was a great effort from our guys start to finish," Martin said. "On offense we moved the ball, ran the motion well, guys were cutting and screening and we got the ball inside. Defensively, we played hard."
Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team got 16 points apiece from Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal, indicated the Vols were the tougher team.
"We went up against a team tonight that was veteran, experienced, deep and hardened, and that part of us got exposed," Donovan said. "We could never get down the lane against them, and they got down the lane against us the whole entire time."
UT returns to action at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena against Arkansas. The Razorbacks (17-8, 5-5) defeated South Carolina (9-15, 1-9) in Fayetteville on Saturday, 76-65.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32