Keon Johnson, John Fulkerson and Victor Bailey Jr. each scored 14 points to spark Tennessee to a 65-54 comeback victory over rival Florida on Sunday afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Volunteers (17-7 overall, 10-7 Southeastern Conference) clinched the No. 4 seed and a double bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, while the Gators (13-8, 9-7) will be the No. 5 seed following back-to-back losses to close the regular season.
Florida will play the winner of the Vanderbilt-Texas AM first-round game on Thursday. The winner of that contest faces Tennessee on Friday, giving the Gators and Volunteers a possible rematch.
Florida jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first half despite playing without leading scorer Tre Mann, who remained at the team hotel while dealing with migraines.
Bailey Jr. was held to only four points on 1-for-12 shooting (0-for-6 from 3-point range) in the first meeting between the two teams. The Gators won that game in a rout on Jan. 19.
On Sunday, Bailey Jr. fueled a much more efficient Volunteers' offense off the bench.
Tennessee closed the first half on an 11-2 run and then took the lead with 12:16 left in the second half on a Santiago Vescovi jumper that was part of a 21-4 surge.
The Volunteers, who shot 29.3 percent (17-for-58) and went 3-for-18 from 3-point range in their first game against the Gators, shot 27-for-62 (43.5 percent) from the floor on Sunday. Tennessee struggled from beyond the arc (3-for-21).
The key was Tennessee's ability to control the paint. The Vols outrebounded Florida 38-29 and 18-9 on the offensive glass.
With Mann out, Tyree Appleby picked things up on the offensive end. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Appleby went down momentarily in the second half with 15:23 when he bumped his left leg with a Tennessee player. He returned moments later shooting a long jumper and made a pair of free throws to give Florida a 43-41 lead.
The Vols outscored the Gators 19-5 over the next 10 minutes and 43 seconds and never trailed again.
Colin Castleton was the Gators' only other scorer in double figures. He had 11 points and six rebounds.
--Field Level Media