NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A year-to-the-day after not being able to take the court in the second round of the 2020 SEC Tournament, the Tennessee basketball team used a balanced offensive effort and a single-game program record nine blocks from senior Yves Pons to push past Florida, 78-66, on Friday at Bridgestone Arena.
The win advanced Tennessee to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the third consecutive conference tournament.
The Vols were led by a stat sheet stuffing performance from Pons, who tallied 11 points, eight rebounds and nine blocks. His nine blocks not only set a Tennessee single game record, but also tied the SEC Tournament record with Andre Riddick.
Pons also finished the afternoon with a team-high plus/minus rating of +36.
Sophomore Santiago Vescovi led Tennessee in scoring with 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting, while dishing out five assists.
Classmate, Josiah-Jordan James-like Pons-stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 10 points, grabbing nine rebounds and adding in six assists with no turnovers.
Freshman Keon Johnson also reached double-figures, dropping in 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Johnson added in nine rebounds and six assists on the afternoon.
Fellow freshman standout Jaden Springer, scored 13 second half points to help push the Vols through the games waning moments.
The opening 10 minutes of the afternoon were defined by the Tennessee defense who completely stifled Florida, holding the Gators to a 4-of-18 mark from the field to take an early 20-10 lead.
The programs went basket-for-basket in the final stages of the half, as Tennessee withstood a late Florida run to hold a 31-22 edge into the halftime break.
The second half began in much the same way the opening frame concluded, with UT holding on to a 10-point advantage as the afternoon approached its final minutes.
The Vols held off an explosive second half from Florida sophomore Tre Mann, and used a number of timely buckets to roll into Saturday's semifinal round.
You've Been LeBlocked: Senior Yves Pons' school-record-setting nine blocks also marked the 20th time Pons has rejected at least three shots and the ninth time he's sent away at least four shots in a singles game in his career.
Three's Company: Yves Pons, Keon Johnson and Josiah-Jordan James all tallied double-digit points and brought down eight or more rebounds to help lead Tennessee past Florida.
Up Next: Tennessee will take on No. 6 Alabama in Saturday afternoon's semifinal round. Tipoff from Nashville is set for 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.