Tennessee dug themselves a hole to start Wednesday night’s game against Florida, but they eventually were able to climb out. A strong second half saw the Volunteers come all the way back, eliminating a double-digit deficit. Tennessee was able to pull away in the closing minutes to secure a 78-71 win.
The fireworks were just beginning, though. Words were exchanged after the game, and the Gators were sent off the floor as players and fans mocked the “Gator Chomp” in their direction.
The situation began after a Florida player made a short joke directed at Tennessee point guard Zakai Zeigler, apparently.
A Florida player made a joke about Zakai Zeigler being too short during the postgame handshake line.— Mike Wilson (@ByMikeWilson) January 27, 2022
A slight brouhaha ensued in front of the scorer's table at Thompson-Boling Arena again. https://t.co/LVyUqi7VHk
5-foot-9 Zeigler had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists on the night, helping to push Tennessee to the win.
During the game, both Santiago Vescovi and Uros Plavsic were handed technical fouls, perhaps setting the tone for what would happen after the game. Vescovi and Tyree Appleby were both handed technical fouls after fighting for a loose ball, while Plavsic was called for one after pushing Jason Jitoboh under the basket following a play.
“There’s always chirping going on in a game, I told our team after the game that I understand being competitive and getting after it, but we’re going to have a class program,” Rick Barnes said after the game. “There are sometimes where you just have to move on. Again, I get it. I played the game once so I get it, I do, but we’re going to do things in a class way.”
This isn’t the first time things have gotten chippy between Tennessee and Florida. You probably remember the dramatic 2019 win in Gainesville, which was capped off by Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and the rest of the team ‘Gator-chomping’ the Gators off the floor.
This current Tennessee team has seemingly found their backbone since Plavsic was inserted into the starting lineup. The seven-footer has brought some fire and energy to the lineup, which was much needed. Barnes said Plavsic was warned for talking to the Florida bench last night.
There’s obviously a line that you don’t want to cross, but you can’t argue with the results since Plavsic has been put into the starting lineup. Tennessee is now 3-0 since, and the entire demeanor of the team feels different.
They’ll look to keep that energy rolling on the road at Texas on Saturday night.