If Billy Donovan’s team is hitting shots like it was in its latest game, 40 minutes should be all it needs.
Coming off an impressive shooting display, the 17th-ranked Gators look for their seventh win in eight games and a season sweep of the Volunteers on Saturday in Gainesville.
Florida (19-5, 8-2) shot 52.5 percent in an 81-75 overtime win in Knoxville on Jan. 11, which it followed four days later with a 72-69 home loss to South Carolina.
Since then, the Gators have been on a roll. Despite shooting 41.1 percent, they’d won five of six - two victories were in overtime - heading into Wednesday’s rematch with the Gamecocks.
Their shooting slump ended in Columbia. Florida hit 55.4 percent and got a season-high 25 points from Erving Walker in a 79-60 rout, taking a 2 1/2-game lead atop the SEC East.
“When we’re making shots like that, we’re tough to beat,” said forward Chandler Parsons, who has averaged 15.2 points and 11.4 rebounds in his last five games. “We just want to keep playing unselfish, keep playing the way we are.”
Parsons had eight of the Gators’ 15 assists at South Carolina, and when they’re sharing the ball efficiently they haven’t lost. Florida is 12-0 when it has 14 assists or more.
The Gators had 14 last month at Knoxville, when they got 77 of their 81 points from their starting lineup. Alex Tyus led the way with 18, Kenny Boynton had 17 and Parsons had 16 with four 3-pointers.
Florida is 9-0 when Parsons scores at least 14 points.
“I think Chandler’s proven to us and to our team that if he’s scoring, great, but there’s so much more that he can provide for our team,” said Donovan, who posted his 350th win as Gators coach Wednesday.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is back from his eight-game SEC-imposed suspension, but he couldn’t have returned for a much more difficult two-game road trip. The Volunteers (15-9, 5-4) shot 40.7 percent Tuesday at Kentucky in Pearl’s return, a 73-61 loss to the 18th-ranked Wildcats.
“It’s fine to be back, but I didn’t help them enough to stay within range,” Pearl said. “… Just too many no-shows, too many no-show performances.”
Center Brian Williams agreed with his coach.
“I don’t think everybody came to play today,” said Williams, averaging 11.8 points in his last four games - nearly double his 6.0 average in his first 20. “I don’t think we were on the same page. We had a game plan and we didn’t stick to it at all.”
Tennessee was outrebounded 38-28, easily the worst performance of the season on the boards for a team with a plus-5.6 differential - second in the SEC behind Florida (plus-6.5).
The Vols likely can’t afford another big deficit on the boards, but they’ve had trouble handling Parsons, whose 7.9 rebounds per game are third in the conference. Parsons has averaged 15.4 points and 8.0 boards in five career starts in the series.
Offensively, Tennessee needs more from Scotty Hopson, held to 11 points Tuesday - 5.2 below his average - after returning from an ankle injury that cost him two games.
The Volunteers are 11-2 when Hopson scores at least 16, though his 20 points last month against Florida weren’t enough.
Tennessee has won four of its last six trips to Gainesville but has lost five of six there when the Gators have been ranked.