Fulkerson-powered Vols knock off Gators

Associated Press • Feb 29, 2020 at 4:56 PM

KNOXVILLE  — John Fulkerson scored 22 points, including the first 3-pointer of his career, and Tennessee held off a furious Florida comeback attempt to register its best win of the season, 63-58 on Saturday.

The Vols (16-13, 8-8 Southeastern Conference) led by 19 points with nine minutes remaining before the Gators clawed back behind Tre Mann and Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Florida (18-11, 10-6) got as close as one point in the final three minutes, but Fulkerson made some clutch plays and the Vols hit enough free throws down the stretch to take the win.

The Vols beat the Gators for the fourth straight time and fifth in their past six meetings.

Tennessee’s defense put the clamps on Florida in the first half, forcing turnovers, charges and a shot-clock violation.

The Vols closed the half on a 16-3 run, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Jordan Bowden and Santiago Vescovi, to carry a 32-17 lead into halftime.

Tennessee expanded the lead to 48-29 on a play that sent the crowd, which included former UT quarterback great Heath Shuler and basketball star Dale Ellis, into a tizzy.

Good ball movement that started with a behind-the-head pass by Vescovi ended with a Fulkerson dunk and a 48-29 Tennessee lead with 11:44 remaining.

Mann and Blackshear then started Florida’s comeback. The Gators embarked on a 25-7 run to cut Tennessee’s lead to 55-54 with under three minutes remaining.

But Fulkerson swished a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired — the first 3 of the Kingsport native’s career on only his second attempt — and soared above the rim for a putback dunk to keep the Vols barely in front for the remainder.

Josiah-Jordan James finished with 12 points for the Vols, Vescovi scored 11 and Bowden had 10.

Blackshear, a graduate transfer who considered Tennessee when he left Virginia Tech for Florida, finished with 20 points. Noah Locke had 15 and Mann scored all nine of his points in the second half.


Florida freshman guard Ques Glover returned home to play. The Knoxville native attended Bearden, where he was teammates with Tennessee freshman Drew Pember.

Glover was 0-for-1 from the field in 19 minutes. Pember missed his second straight game while in concussion protocol.

Glover and Pember played Fortnite together during the week leading up to the game, but Glover said they didn’t engage in any trash talk.

Glover attended games at Thompson-Boling Arena when he was growing up, and had plenty of friends and family in the stands supporting him. He said he didn’t receive an offer from Tennessee coming out of high school.


Vescovi got a surprise from his family. The freshman guard’s parents, Pablo and Laura, and his sister, Lucia, traveled from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Knoxville for the first time to watch him play.

They sneaked up behind Vescovi before the game, and the family shared a big group hug once he realized it was them. Vescovi was a mid-year enrollee and arrived at Tennessee on Dec. 28.


Florida seems safely in the NCAA tournament with two regular-season games remaining, but the Gators didn’t help their cause with the road loss to a team nowhere near the NCAA bubble.

There is no NCAA tournament in the future for Tennessee, short of a run to win the SEC tournament title, but beating a rival is always good motivation. The Vols have two more chances with games against Kentucky and Auburn to close out the regular season.

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