KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—JaJuan Smith knew the points would come eventually.
After falling behind to Florida by 13 points in the first half, seventh-ranked Tennessee dominated in the second with 3s and free throws to beat the Gators 104-82 on Tuesday night.
“We knew we hadn’t played the best basketball of the game,” Smith said of his thoughts at halftime, when the Vols were down 48-44. “We knew it was going to come sooner or later.”
Smith had six 3 pointers and 23 points and Chris Lofton also made six 3s in scoring 26 points, helping Tennessee (20-2, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) to its best start in history.
“I think the biggest thing with Tennessee, Lofton and JaJuan Smith make some tough shots,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Looking at the stat sheet, you might say, ‘Gosh those guys are throwing it up and getting lucky.’ But they’re not. They do that every game.”
Tyler Smith added a career-high 23 points for the Vols, with all but one basket coming in the second half.
Alex Tyler’s layup with 17:59 to go increased Florida’s lead to 52-46.
Tennessee went ahead after Tyler Smith spun around to hit a jumper and Lofton followed with a 3 with 16:02 to go.
Tennessee, which normally makes only 64.6 percent of its free throws, took advantage of the Gators’ foul trouble, making 21 of 30 (70 percent) to boost their lead.
The Vols also made 13 from behind the arc, including Lofton’s six and another six from Smith.
Tennessee, which averages 84.5 points per game, is only the fifth team to reach their average against Florida (18-5, 5-3).
The Gators had no problems scoring in the first half as they jumped out to a 16-3 lead four minutes into the game as Tennessee missed five straight shots.
“When they’re shooting well Florida does everything the way it should be done,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said.
The Vols went on an 8-0 run, then Tennessee and Florida traded baskets— four straight 3-pointers for the Vols and field goals for the Gators—to tie the game at 30 with 10:12 to go in the first half.
“Tennessee’s probably one of the most explosive teams in the country,” Florida forward Dan Werner said.
Marreese Speights led Florida with 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Werner added 18 points, Nick Calathes had 15 and Jai Lucas had 10.
The Gators have dropped three of their last four road games.
“I do not know that it is a lack of ability, youthfulness, strength, quickness, but we have not bought into defending like we need to defend,” Donovan said.