Florida faces Tennessee with last year’s loss on its mind (Jan 07, 2017)

Florida’s blowout loss at the hands of Tennessee last year was one of the low points of Gators coach Mike White’s first season.

The 24th-ranked Gators will be out for revenge Saturday, when the Volunteers visit the O’Connell Center for a late afternoon game in Gainesville, Fla.

If the Vols are to upset White’s improved Gators, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes believes his team will need a much better effort than it gave in a loss to Arkansas on Tuesday. Florida is off to a 2-0 start in SEC play.

Barnes noted Florida’s improved perimeter play and stingy defense before questioning his team’s competitiveness during the loss to Arkansas.

“I thought we took a step backwards the other night (against Arkansas),” Barnes told reporters. “I didn’t just feel like we completed the way we have to. What people might think on the outside, that we’re playing hard, but there’s a different level that we expect and that we know we have to do every night.

“And for us not to go out and compete and keep moving forward is what disappointed me most.”

Florida (11-3, 2-0) didn’t play a complete game in its last time out, either, but managed to post a 70-63 win over Ole Miss. The Gators had a 20-point lead midway through the second half but were forced to hold on down the stretch as the Rebels made a serious run.

Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen leads Florida’s balanced attack. Allen is averaging 14.1 points and is one of three Gators averaging in double figures. Junior forward Devin Robinson is averaging 12.6 points and senior guard Canyon Berry, who is coming off his best performance of the season, is averaging 11.6 points. Berry scored 20 points in the win over the Rebels.

Tennessee comes in at 8-6 and 1-1 in SEC play, but White says the Volunteers are much better than their record indicates.

“They’ll be very well prepared, typical of a Rick Barnes-coached team,” White told reporters this week. “I like their team speed and depth.”

Twelve Volunteers are averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Senior guard Robert Hubbs III leads Tennessee in scoring at 15.2 points per game and is second in rebounding at 4.9 boards per game.

“I think Robert Hubbs III is one of the most underappreciated players in the conference,” White said.

Freshman forward Grant Williams leads the team in rebounding at 5.9 boards per game and is second in scoring at 10.8. Junior guard Detrick Mostella is the Vols’ best weapon off the bench.

Florida had beaten Tennessee four straight times, before last year’s 83-69 loss, and would like to start new streak on Saturday.

The Gators will wear all black uniforms for the first time in nearly seven years, as Florida prepares for the first “O’Dome blackout” in the newly renovated O’Connell Center.