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Gators put SEC run on the line against Vols

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Updated: 1/25 11:07 am

Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The sixth-ranked Florida Gators will attempt to remain unbeaten in SEC action on Saturday afternoon, as they welcome the Tennessee Volunteers to the O'Connell Center.

Tennessee has impressed this season, going 12-6 overall, and it has kept that success going with three wins in its first five SEC matchups. The Vols most recently downed Arkansas at home on Wednesday night, 81-74, but they are just 1-3 in true road games.

Florida, meanwhile, has been nothing short of outstanding, climbing to No. 6 in the nation by winning 16 of its first 18 matchup, including a pair of signature non-conference victories over Kansas (67-61) and Memphis (77-75). The Gators defeated Alabama on the road on Thursday, 68-62, to move to 5-0 in conference play. They've also been flawless at the O'Connell Center, winning all 10 bouts.

Tennessee has had Florida's number of late with three straight wins, including a 64-58 triumph in Knoxville last season over the then-No. 8 Gators. The Vols lead the all-time series, 72-52.

The Vols were locked up in a tight battle with Arkansas earlier in the week, fighting through 10 ties and 15 lead changes before eventually making claim to the seven-point victory. They shot a lackluster 40.7 percent from the field and committed a game-high 15 turnovers, but they also took advantage of the Razorbacks' foul trouble by draining 30-of-38 at the free-throw line. Jordan McRae was the catalyst with a season-high 34 points on 9-of-18 from the field (including 4-of-8 from 3-point range) and 12-of-14 at the free-throw line. Jeronne Maymon tallied 17 points and nine rebounds, while Josh Richardson added 10 points.

Tennessee has displayed well-rounded success on both ends of the floor this season, as it shoots 45.1 percent from the field for 74.8 ppg, while allowing just 63.3 ppg on 41.7 percent shooting. It also adds positive margins in the rebounding (+9.2) and turnover (+0.8) battles to its stellar resume. McRae is the league's third-leading scorer with 19.2 ppg, shooting 36-of-102 from beyond the arc (.353) and 96-of-121 from the foul line (.793). Jarnell Stokes (13.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg) is a double-double threat on any given day, and Maymon (11.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg) joins him for one of the best frontcourt duos in the country.

The Gators never trailed in their most recent contest, holding a lead as large as 12 over Alabama before surviving down the stretch for the six-point victory. Although they shot just 37.7 percent overall, they did manage to drain 10 3-pointers, and they played their typically-outstanding defense, holding the Tide to 38.6 percent shooting (including 2-of-12 from beyond the arc). Michael Frazier was 5-of-13, all from long distance, en route to 18 points. Casey Prather netted 14 points, Scottie Wilbekin scored 10 and Dorian Finney-Smith and Will Yeguete collected 11 rebounds apiece.

Offensively, the Florida has been solid, making good on 46.2 percent of its field goal tries for 72.1 ppg, but the biggest reason for its success this season has been due to having the SEC's top-ranked defense, holding opponents to just 39.5 percent shooting and 59.8 ppg. Prather shoots a lofty 61.1 percent from the floor en route to his team-high 17.1 ppg, while also adding 5.6 rpg. Wilbekin (12.4 ppg) is a strong perimeter defender with nearly two steals per contest. Frazier (12.1 ppg) has drained 49 3-pointers at a 45.4- percent clip, while Patric Young (10.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.0 bpg) and Finney-Smith (10.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) anchor the paint for the balanced squad.

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