Vols Win 6th In Row, 64-58 Over #8 Gators

Feb. 26, 2013

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Jordan McRae continued his torrid stretch with 27 points in leading Tennessee to a 64-58 victory over No. 8 Florida in front of an electric crowd of 19,567 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tennessee won its sixth game in a row for its longest win streak in SEC games since 2008, when UT won eight straight conference games. The Vols are now 17-10 overall and 9-6 in the SEC, making a late surge for a top-four seed in the SEC Tournament. Tennessee is in sole possession of fifth place, one-half game behind Ole Miss (9-5 SEC).

Florida, the first-place team in the SEC, falls to 22-5 overall and 12-3 in the league. Mike Rosario led the Gators in scoring with 16. Patric Young chipped in 15.

Cuonzo Martin moved to 3-0 all-time against Billy Donovan, winning all three games at Tennessee and all over ranked Florida teams. Last season, UT knocked off the Gators when they were ranked 13th and 8th.

Tennessee's defense, held the Gators to their fewest points of the season, equalling the 58 they scored against Savannah State. The Vols also held the Gators their lowest output last season, in UT's 67-56 win on Jan. 7, 2012.

McRae carried the Vols on his back for the second straight home victory on the heels of a career-high 34 vs. LSU last week. McRae is averaging 20.0 over the Vols six-game win streak.

Jarnell Stokes had a tough night offensively, but his last field goal was perhaps the biggest of the game as a finished a 3-point play with 54.5 seconds left and put the Vols ahead by three possessions, 61-54. Stokes also grabbed a a game-high 14 rebounds.

Thompson-Boling Arena rocked all night long, and the crowd helped Tennessee hold onto its lead over Florida and provided energy to keep momentum in the Vols' favor.

With the crowd arguably playing as much of an impact as UT's stifling defense, the Vols' extra defender kept the noise volume up throughout the game, and the animated fan base had a clear affect on the Gators' offense.

"I think the fans did a great job tonight," Jarnell Stokes said. "I know it hasn't been the easiest time throughout the course of the season, so it just meant a lot to see people show up and get into it."

Within the opening minutes, Jordan McRae's steal and slam dunk for the first basket of the game got the fans, who were already psyched up from the pre-game festivities, something to cheer loudly about early.

"That moment was great," McRae said. "I think it set the tone for the rest of the game. You can just feed off our fans' energy, and it makes a big difference on the game."

After a quite start to the second half, the crowd exploded after a Josh Richardson steal turned into another McRae dunk.

"Our fans are some of the best in the country," McRae said. "They really are our 'Sixth Man,' and I just want to say, 'Thanks to everyone in Volnation who have supported us all year long."

The crowd let out one last collective cheer with 11 seconds left in the contest after McRae was fouled and his two free throws essentially ended the game. Before going into the locker room, UT's players huddled in the student section to celebrate the big win as the pep band serenaded with "Rocky Top."

By Ryan Howard

Florida tried to make a last-minute charge, but a drawn charge by Tennessee's Josh Richardson on the Gators' Rosario with 28.3 seconds left gave the Vols the ball. Trae Golden made a free throw seconds later to give the Vols a 62-56 lead.

McRae finished the game with two free throws with 11.7 left and sent the crowd into a frenzy.

The Vols used clutch shooting in the second half and played solid defense in limiting the Gators. McRae was the star all night, but the Vols got contributions from various sources as nine different players scored. In the second half, Golden's 3-pointer with 7:43 left in regulation put the Vols ahead 56-48.

Kenny Hall, who played only four minutes in the first half, entered with six minutes left in the first half and immediately gave the Vols a lead of six, 43-37, on a slam dunk with 13:44 left in the game.

Florida shot just 37.9 from the floor in the second half including 1-of-10 from 3-point range.

Tennessee outrebounded Florida, 41-31.

Tennessee led 35-32 at intermission behind a monster first half from McRae, who had 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. UT scored the final seven points of the first half to take their first lead since 2-0.

The Vols fought from behind for virtually the entire first half and finally were able to take the lead with a 1:46 left in the first half on a Skylar McBee 3-pointer from the corner. That put UT ahead 34-32. It came on the heels of McRae's 3-pointer with 2:28 left in the half brought the Vols within one.

Florida jumped out to a 9-2 lead scoring nine in a row after McRae opened the scoring with a fastbreak slam dunk.

The Vols beat a ranked Florida team in both meetings last season, winning 67-56 in Knoxville and 75-70 in Gainesville. This season was the first since 1964 that the teams will not play a home-and-home.

The Vols head on the road to face Georgia on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. That game airs on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Vol Network. Tennessee hosts its regular-season home finale on March 9 vs. Missouri after a road game at Auburn on March 6.





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