So far, the Tennessee Volunteers aren’t handling the homestretch of the regular season all that well. After grabbing all the national media’s attention with a six game win streak and a win at Rupp Arena over Kentucky, it’s gone downhill. Tennessee is just 2-2 since that game, getting blown out by Alabama and beaten up physically by Georgia.
With just four games left in the regular season, Rick Barnes has to figure out how to get his Volunteers to snap out of this rough stretch. That started yesterday by challenging his star forward Grant Williams to be more aggressive.
“Grant isn’t fighting enough to make aggressive, attacking the rim type shots,” Barnes said. “He’s settling. He’s taking eight to ten foot jump-hooks, which is not his best shot. He’s going to have to work on it and get more aggressive and attack the basket more.”
Williams has a chance to respond in a big spot as the Florida Gators come to town on Wednesday night.
Florida is similar to Tennessee from an inconsistency standpoint. At one point early in the season, Florida was a top ten team. They knocked off Gonzaga before falling to Duke in the Phil Knight Invitational. They followed that up with losses to Florida State and Loyola-Chicago, before turning around and beating Cincinnati.
You just never know what you’re going to get with the Gators. Like Tennessee, they went on a six game winning streak of their own. They haven’t been consistent since that run. Florida sits at 8-6 in league play, losers of two straight games. Both Georgia and Vanderbilt have picked up wins against the Gators in the past week.
It doesn’t get any easier for them in the final two weeks, either. Florida finishes at Tennessee and Alabama and then comes home to face Auburn and Kentucky. Like Tennessee, Florida needs to find their groove again quickly.
Chris Chiozza is the motor that drives the Gators. He’s the 3rd leading scorer on the team, but he makes things tick from the point. Chiozza averages nearly six assists per game. Rick Barnes discussed his game with the media on Monday.
“He’s experienced and he’s very fast,” Barnes said. “They do a lot with him and he puts a lot of pressure on your defense. He can pass the ball — they even give him the ball in the post area and let him try to create some offense. He’s been around. He’s played a lot of basketball in this league and had a lot of success.”
Chiozza — a Memphis native — gets everything going for Florida, but he’s got plenty of talent around him. The Gators have four guys averaging double digit points per game. Jalen Hudson leads the way, shooting close to 40 percent from three point range. His 6-6 length will give any team issues on both ends of the floor.
Speaking of length and three point shooting, Florida has a similar threat in Egor Koulechov. The 6-5 senior guard shoots 42 percent from deep and pulls down an impressive seven rebounds per game.
KeVaughn Allen is the other guard worth mentioning, averaging 11 points per game. Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes form the frontcourt presence for Florida, each logging 24 minutes per game.
On paper, Florida looks like a dangerous group capable of beating anyone in the country. They just haven’t been able to string together wins since starting SEC play.
Rick Barnes was asked on Monday about his concerns heading into Wednesday night. He wasn’t all that interested in talking about what the Gators bring to the table. He just wants his team to get better.
“We’ve got to rebound the ball, they’re a heavy ball screen team. Transition. They get the ball down the floor so we’re going to have to — it’s just fundamental basketball. Take care of the ball. Every game you’re worried about yourself. How can we get better?”
Tennessee and Florida will tip-off at 9 PM eastern at Thompson-Boling Arena. You can watch the game live on ESPN2.