Florida Basketball: Gators get smoked from the jump and fall to Tennessee

The Gators never led and lost by 19 in Knoxville
Florida head coach Todd Golden coaches during the second half of an NCAA basketball game against
Florida head coach Todd Golden coaches during the second half of an NCAA basketball game against / Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun / USA

Tuesday night presented an opportunity for Florida basketball to pick a much needed Quad 1 win against Tennessee. The Gators have showcased they are capable of beating top ten teams, they just need to clean up a couple of things.

But it was going to take more than a couple of tweaks to clean up the mess from Tuesday as the Gators never led in Knoxville and fell to the Volunteers 85-66.

Florida Basketball: Smoked by Smokey

For seven minutes, the Gators were sort of hanging around with the sixth ranked Volunteers. Even though eight of Tennessee's came from inside the paint, Florida was able to keep it within two points after a made jump shot from Alex Condon.

But it was at the 13 minute mark in the first half that the wheels quickly came off for the Gators. A 26 to 11 run over a ten minute period by Tennessee ballooned the lead to 17 points with three minutes to go in the half.

The irony for the Gators is that they hit a number of their core metrics. Their free throw shooting was 21 for 25, they collected 19 offensive rebounds, and while three point shooting wasn't great at 22%, it wasn't much better for Tennessee.

Florida even led the fast break point battle 22 to 8 and had two fewer turnovers than Tennessee.

The problem was that despite the Gators being a much lengthier team in 2023-24, Florida couldn't do anything to prevent Tennessee from scoring in the paint. 38 of Tennessee's points came inside the paint, while Florida could only manage 26.

Walter Clayton wound up leading the way for the Gators with 16 points, but it was Dalton Knecht's 39 points that Florida had zero answer for.

As much as the 2023-24 season started out with hope and promise, the cracks and the flaws of this squad are evident. The Gators do have three winnable games on the docket with Missouri, Mississippi State, and Georgia all up next.

Anything short of going 3-0 during that stretch is going to leave the Gators in a hole in might not dig out of.