At times it appeared the Tennessee men’s basketball team might snag the signature win it desperately needed for its NCAA tournament resume.
But Scottie Wilbekin, who missed his first five 3-point attempts, swished his sixth out of a timeout to give Florida a seven-point lead with 2:24 to play, and a noticeable amount of Tennessee fans grabbed their coats and headed for the exits.
Tennessee tied its game against No. 3 Florida four times but lost to the Gators 67-58 at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday.
UT (15-9, 6-5) is now winless against the top two teams in the SEC, Kentucky and Florida, this season. The Gators (22-2, 11-0) remained unscathed in SEC play and extended their winning streak to 16 games. They haven’t lost since Dec. 2.
Jarnell Stokes led UT with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jordan McRae, who scored a season-low five against Florida in Gainesville earlier this season, scored 17. Josh Richardon added 13.
But Wilbekin was the star. He scored 21 points despite fruitless 3-point shooting. He also dished six assists.
UT shot 62.5 percent in the first half and led by as much as six points with 3:51 to play before intermission. But the Gators cut that lead to one (34-31) before the halftime buzzer. They started the second half on a 9-2 run.
Ben Frederickson covers UT men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/Ben_Fred