KNOXVILLE — So many times this basketball season, the Tennessee Volunteers have been carried by an offense potent enough to outscore almost any opponent.
While they have remained effective and efficient on that end of the court, the top-ranked Vols' 73-61 win over Florida on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena was their second consecutive game in which they were able to rely on their defense.
Tennessee limited Florida to 36 percent shooting from the field, including an 8-of-26 performance from 3-point range, in front of a sellout crowd of 22,261 who saw the Vols extend their program-record winning streak to 18 games.
The Vols (22-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) will complete a three-game homestand when they host South Carolina (12-11, 7-3) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
In Saturday's win against Florida (12-11, 4-6) and a 72-60 win against Missouri this past Tuesday, Tennessee limited each opponent to 35 percent shooting from the field. While the Gators and the Tigers both hit eight 3-pointers, it took them a combined 53 attempts to do so, a success rate of 30 percent.
Against Florida, Tennessee scored at least 70 points for the 20th consecutive game and the 22nd time overall this season. The Vols shot 53 percent from the field for the game — 59 percent in the second half — but struggled with turnovers, with eight of their 13 coming in the second half and keeping the game relatively close.
"We've been getting back to playing a lot of 1-on-1 in practice, working on guarding the ball and staying in front of the ball," senior Admiral Schofield said of the improved defensive results. "We also have to be smart about fouling. Sometimes you've got to let it go — everyone is a Division I athlete out here, you can't stop everybody — and sometimes you've got to take that one, go down and make up for it on the other end and affect the game in a different way.
"We've got a lot of guys with talent and we can't put pressure on guys, put guys in bad situations. We're learning on that end as far as playing smart, but I think we got a lot better on the offensive end as far as shooting the ball but also locking in and executing and trying to get better."
Grant Williams led four Tennessee scorers in double figures with 16 points. Schofield scored 14, and he and Williams each had six rebounds apiece to lead the team. Jordan Bowden had 13 points off the bench, and Jordan Bone had 10 points and five assists. Lamonte Turner scored all nine of his points on a trio of second-half 3s, including two early in the Vols' 12-2 spurt after Florida closed to within 40-36 a little more than two minutes into the second half.
John Fulkerson, who scored five points, was second in bench minutes for the Vols, totaling 11 to Bowden's leading 28. The Vols played without sophomore Yves Pons, who incurred a facial injury in practice Thursday and is day to day after having surgery Friday.
The Vols used a 17-3 run during the first half to assume control of the game, spurred by a defense that limited the Gators to a stretch in which they made only two of 14 field-goal attempts, turning an 8-5 Florida lead into a double-digit Tennessee advantage. The Vols led 36-30 at the break and took one last shot from the visitors, but the second-half spurt put them back out in front by double figures and Florida didn't get closer than seven after that.
Only two players hit 3-pointers for Florida on Saturday: Noah Locke, who was 5-for-8 from long range and led the Gators with 17 points, and KeVaughn Allen, who was 3-for-5 behind the arc and scored 11 points. Jalen Hudson finished with 15 points, while Kevarrius Hayes and Keyontae Johnson had seven each. Hayes had a team-high nine rebounds and blocked three shots.
"I thought we did compete really hard defensively against a team that puts you in a lot of tough situations on offense," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "Overall we tried to compete hard on the defensive end, and offensively, we still have to understand, in the last four minutes of the first half the ball never hit the post.
"Overall, it was a good win against a good basketball team that's really hard to play against."