Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me, especially after a Tennessee win over Florida. Being back in Knoxville is something the Vols were happy about — Rick Barnes and company got their 20th win of the regular season with a 62-57 win over the Gators in front of a home crowd.
By just glancing at the stat sheet, though, you’d probably think Tennessee lost the game. Florida had more steals, blocks, rebounds and fewer turnovers.
Despite the lousy shooting in the first half, Tennessee shot 43.4 percent for the game and 30 percent (just 3 of 10) from the 3-point line. On the other hand, Florida shot 35 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc after 24 attempted long balls.
Maybe the difference in the game came down to free-throw shooting. The Vols shot 13 of 15 (86 percent) from the free-throw line. Florida only shot 9-of-16 (56.3%), resulting in a four-point swing. The result of the game? A five-point loss for the Gators.
Rick Barnes pushed the right buttons when he called out Grant Williams earlier in the week.
“He has to stop talking is what he has to do. He has to produce,” Barnes said of Williams down the stretch. “He has to quit talking about it and do it.”
Well, Williams answered the challenge last night. The Gators didn’t have anyone that could slow the Vols’ leading scorer down. Williams led the Vols with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and six rebounds.
Admiral Schofield was another bright spot in the game. He had 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting and had eight rebounds. Schofield really stepped up when Williams got in foul trouble.
Other than the Schofield and Williams duo (with a slight assist from Jordan Bowden), the Vols didn’t have anyone that showed up. Tennessee has the pieces for a deep run in both the SEC and NCAA Tournament, but sometimes those other pieces — namely the guards — fail to show up.
Bring on that double bye. With the win, Tennessee pretty much wraps up the second seed in the SEC Tournament. They have a two-game lead on third place with three games to go.
With that being said, if the Vols were to drop two of those games, they could still drop to fifth or sixth in the conference. I don’t think that will happen, but this team is capable of the shoulder-shrugging performances.
The overall negative from the game is that Tennessee’s guard play is still shaky. The guards had a total of 23 points with nine assists and seven turnovers. For the Vols to make a run in March, the guard play has to be more consistent. It’s crazy to think Jordan Bowden is becoming the most consistent of the guards. He has had 64 points in the last six games and has been clutch at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Moving forward, Tennessee travels to the great state of Mississippi twice, first to Oxford and then to Starkville. Realistically, the Vols should close the season 2-1, at the worst, while gearing up for the SEC Tournament.
Maybe, Barnes should call out the entire team if they can respond the way Grant Williams did.