College Basketball: Tennessee at Florida - Florida Favored
56% of Bets Placed on Tennessee +16 | Matchup | CBB Picks
Tennessee should not be intimidated by playing on the road against top-ranked Florida. Doing it without Chris Lofton, though, won't help the team's confidence.
No visiting squad has won at the O'Connell Center since the Volunteers nearly a year ago, but it is unlikely they will have the SEC's leading scorer back in action Saturday as they try to knock off the Gators.
Oddsmakers have made Florida -16 point spread favorites
Three days after Florida struggled at home against one Tennessee school, needing to rally from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Vanderbilt 74-64, the Vols look to give the Gators more than just a scare.
"There's not a team we can't beat. Of course every game is going to be a challenge," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said after his team's 82-71 win over Georgia on Wednesday.
Florida (20-2, 7-0) has won 15 in a row at home since a 76-72 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 22. Of their last 39 games at the O'Connell Center, the Gators have lost only three, and two came against the Vols (15-7, 3-4) in Tennessee's only visits during that span.
Saturday's game will be the first meeting between the SEC East rivals since the Vols swept both matchups last season. Lofton was a big reason for that, leading Tennessee in scoring in both games and averaging 22.5 points.
The junior guard, scoring 21.5 points per contest this season, has missed three straight games with a sprained right ankle.
Lofton did dress for Wednesday's game, but remained on the bench as Tennessee knocked off one of the SEC's hottest teams - Georgia had won five of six. The Vols suffered lopsided losses at Mississippi and Kentucky in their first two games without Lofton.
"I'd say he's doubtful, but he's getting closer. He's making progress," Pearl said Friday. "He'll be dressed and will go through layup lines and he'd be available in an emergency situation, but right now I don't think he's ready to play enough of a role to make a difference."
Lofton's absence would make things easier defensively on Florida's backcourt of Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey, allowing them to expend more of their energy at the offensive end. Green has scored in double figures in six straight games, making at least two 3-pointers in each, but Humphrey may be the hottest of the Gators since SEC play began.
In seven conference games, Humphrey is shooting 70 percent from 3-point range (28-of-40) while averaging 15.3 points.
"You can tell when he gets going because he's just shooting it and puts his hands down real fast," Green said. "We feed off of that when he makes 3s."
Tennessee's JaJuan Smith has been an equally big 3-point threat recently, making 17 of 38 over the past four games and scoring more than 20 points in each. He's averaging 15.7 points this season after scoring 22 on Wednesday.
Fellow starting guard Ramar Smith added a career-high 21, scoring in double figures for the 11th straight game.
Despite the wealth of talented long-range shooters in this game, the difference could come on the inside.
Tennessee has only one starter taller than 6-foot-4, and no player on its roster is over 6-9. Florida, meanwhile, boasts a pair of talented big men in 6-11 Joakim Noah and 6-10 Al Horford.
Noah had 19 points and nine rebounds, while Horford added 12 points and 12 boards Wednesday. Both are averaging more than eight rebounds per game, while no Tennessee player averages six.
by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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