KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Tennessee players have resisted the temptation to stage a new post-game "Gator Chomp" after their last victory over Florida.
The sold-out crowd at the Thompson-Boling Arena did so instead.
Grant Williams scored 16 points as the top-ranked volunteers beat Florida 73-61 on Saturday to extend their record-winning streak to 18 games.
The Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) boasts the longest streak of active wins of any Division I team. This also marks the biggest winning streak of the 32-year-old head coach career. by Rick Barnes, surpassing the 17-game series that marked the start of the 2009-10 Texas season.
"I appreciate how much they have competed," Barnes said. "I appreciate the fact that they want to improve, and we can improve.I think they believe, along with our coaching staff, that our best basketball is in front of us, it will not be easy, but they are competitive, we are, they deserve credit. "
The Tennessee winning streak includes a 78-67 Florida win on Jan. 12. Immediately after the end of the match, the five Tennessee players on the ground presented a "Gomp Chomp" in a simulated version of the joy favored by Florida fans. Admiral Schofield of Tennessee said at the time that the Flights were reacting to the "disrespectful" and "inhumane" comments that Florida fans had made during the match.
This time the Tennessee players had a quieter party, but the fans started playing the Gator Chomp at the last minute and continued it to the sound of the final horn.
"Poetic Justice," said Schofield, one of four Tennessee players to score two numbers. "At the same time, everything is fun, a deep rivalry, but many years of difficult and bitter football, difficult basketball, and at the end of the day, I think a lot of people just like our rivalry with Florida ".
Florida (12-11, 4-6) lost its third in a row and fourth in its last five games.
"It's the best team in the country," said Florida coach Michael White. "They are as good on the defensive as on the offensive side."
Schofield scored 14 points, Jordan Bowden 13 and Jordan Bone added 10 for Tennessee. Noah Locke scored 17 goals, Jalen Hudson 15 and KeVaughn Allen 11 for Florida.
Tennessee was led by no less than 16 people in the first half, before Florida returned to 36-30 at intermission.
Florida cut the Tennessee lead to 40-36 with a 17:37 deficit, but Tennessee responded with a 12-2 record that included three straight points from Lamonte's Turner. After Florida scored seven points in a row to narrow the gap to seven points, Tennessee responded with a 9-0 score including another Turner pointer and two Schofield dunks.
Schofield said after the match that the Flights had responded to how Barnes had challenged them.
"Winning is not what it's all about," Schofield said. "That's not why we got into basketball, so the competition is why we got into basketball, which is what we really like about basketball. This week we did a lot more competitive exercises … we really get the juice to focus and it really helped us really focus on why we started playing this game.
"When you win as much and you win consecutively in this way, you can get lost and small things get big." We did not want it as a team, so we had to start figuring out why we even started paying. this coach challenged us to go out and compete tonight. "
Florida: The Gators have barely passed the .500 but entered the game in the 42nd place of the NET rankings, indicating that their chances in the playoffs were not over yet. But three consecutive defeats against Kentucky, Auburn and Tennessee have dealt a heavy blow to their hopes of winning a big bid in NCAA tournaments. The Gators still have two games with the UL 21 and Road Trips in Alabama and Kentucky No. 5.
Tennessee: The Flights have said for several weeks that they had to regain the defensive intensity that they had shown last season. They started to show this form recently. After playing an outstanding defense Tuesday in a 72-60 win over Missouri, the Vols maintained Florida at a total of three points for a duration of more than nine minutes on Saturday.
The Tennessee player was playing without his injured substitute Yves Pons in the face as he collided with one of his teammates in Thursday's practice.
Barnes has expressed optimism that Pons will return Wednesday against South Carolina.
BEST VS. BETTER
Tennessee entered the day by leading the SEC to the mark (86.0) while Florida had the SEC's best defense (63.4). Tennessee finished below average, but still won with 52.8% (28 of 53), including 59.3% (16 of 27) in the second half.
Florida welcomes Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Tennessee hosts South Carolina on Wednesday.
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