Tyler Smith, JaJuan Smith help Tennessee edge FloridaMar 6, 2008 - 6:12 AM GAINESVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- JaJuan Smith may have led the way on the scoreboard, but it was Tyler Smith who provided the play of the game.
Tyler Smith grabbed JaJuan Smith's missed free throw and put it back in with 39 seconds remaining to lift No. 4 Tennessee to an 89-86 victory over Florida in a Southeastern Conference matchup on Wednesday.
JaJuan Smith finished with 23 points and Chris Lofton added 21 for the Volunteers, who locked up the overall No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament with the win combined with Mississippi State's loss at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
With the game deadlocked at 85-85 with 44 seconds remaining, Gators forward Dan Werner sent JaJuan Smith to the line for a pair of free throws. He came up short on both attempts, but Tyler Smith snuck in behind a pair of Florida defenders and grabbed the rebound, putting it back up for an 87-85 lead.
Tyler Smith finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
After Marreese Speights split a pair of free throws for Florida (21-9, 8-7 SEC East), Wayne Chism clinched the victory with two from the stripe with 18 seconds left.
Florida did have a final chance, but freshman Nick Calathes' 3-point attempt was off the mark in the closing moments.
"They did a good job defending," Calathes told the Gainesville Sun. "I don't think we changed much. They just buckled down on the defensive end."
It took a major comeback on the part of Tennessee (27-3, 13-2) just to make a game of it down the stretch, as it battled back from a 13-point deficit at the half, 55-42.
Lofton took a chunk out of the lead right at the start of the second half, combining with Tyler Smith on a 7-0 run to cut it to 55-49. JaJuan Smith gave the Volunteers their first lead of the game at 70-69 with 7:41 left, and the team pushed it to 79-69 during a 14-0 run.
But Florida refused to quit, and Calathes' 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining tied the game again at 85-85. Calathes finished with 24 points to lead the way for the Gators, who have now lost six of their last nine games.
"I'm not worried about that," Werner told the newspaper. "We have plenty of games left. We know what we're capable of. We have to focus on (our next game vs.) Kentucky."
The Gators surged out to an early lead, shooting 68 percent (19-of-28) over the first 20 minutes to a take a 55-42 advantage at the break.
They hit their first nine shots, opening up a 23-10 advantage with 14:04 left in the opening half. The Gators stretched the lead to 35-19 on Marreese Speights' jumper with 9:09 left.
"That was Gator basketball," Werner told the Gainesville Sun about the first half. "Running and hustling and making shots."
Walter Hodge scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and Speights added 12 on 6-of-6 from the floor in the first half for Florida, which shot 7-of-12 from the arc in the frame.
But the Volunteers climbed back into it, cutting the lead to 51-40 on J.P. Prince's dunk with 1:24 left in the half.
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
TENNESSEE (4) 42 47 89
FLORIDA 55 31 86 FINAL
Mar 5 11:12 PM
- NCAA BB
(4) TENNESSEE 42
FLORIDA 55 HALFTIME
Mar 5 9:54 PM
- Virginia Tech guard Jalen Hudson transfers to Florida May 16
- Forward Lew Evans transferring from Utah State to Tennessee May 12
- Florida guard Francis-Ramirez transferring after 2 seasons May 4
- Forward Ray Kasongo leaving Tennessee after 1 season Apr 21
- Florida's Devin Robinson out 4-6 months after foot surgery Apr 21
- Florida guard Walker plans to transfer after graduation Mar 28
- Florida's Egbunu to have season-ending thumb surgery Mar 15
- Florida's Egbunu uncertain to play against UNF in NIT Mar 14
- Tennessee optimistic about future after rare losing season Mar 12
- Florida C Egbunu tears thumb ligament before SEC Tournament Mar 9
- Florida trying to rebuild NCAA resume at SEC Tournament Mar 7
- Tennessee's Kevin Punter Jr. to have season-ending surgery Mar 4