Manning watches, Summitt cheers, Vols swamp Gators
Knoxville, TN (Sports Network) – With Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning sitting in
the stands and Tennessee legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt dressed as a
cheerleader, the Volunteers rode early momentum to beat No. 5 Florida, 86-76,
handing the defending national champions their second consecutive loss.
Chris Lofton had 21 points and JaJuan Smith scored 16 for the Volunteers
(21-9, 9-6 SEC), who won for the sixth time in their last seven games to
solidify their spot for at least an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Ramar Smith and Dane Bradshaw each scored 10 for Tennessee, which shot a
season-high 58 percent to complete a perfect home season at 16-0 for the first
time since 1976.
Al Horford scored 17 and had 10 rebounds for the Gators (25-5, 12-3), who were
coming off a 10-point loss at LSU Saturday. Chris Richard and Corey Brewer
each chipped in 12 points for Florida, which trailed by as many as 27 points
before trying to rally late. Joakim Noah was limited to eight points, but had
11 boards, as the Gators lost for a third time in four games following a 17-
game winning streak.
It’s the first time the Volunteers have won four straight games in a single
season against ranked opponents, as they earlier beat Vanderbilt, Kentucky,
During a timeout in the first half, Summitt, donned in an orange cheerleader
uniform and wearing a white and orange feathered hat, grabbed the microphone
and led the crowd in the singing of “Rocky Top,” the official song of the
state. Summitt also topped a mini cheerleading pyramid.
Summitt returned the favor from men’s coach Bruce Pearl, who painted his
chest orange and supplied the white “V” in GO VOLS in the student section
during a Lady Vols 74-70 loss to No. 1 Duke on January 22. Just over one month
later, Pearl’s squad was involved in a decisive win in front of 24,047 fans,
the seventh-largest crowd in Tennessee basketball history.
It was also a resounding victory for the Vols, who lost 94-78 at Florida on
“We are playing well after being dominated at Florida,” Pearl said. “Everybody
on this team is growing up. Our team is fresh and hungry.
The Gators led 17-16 following a jumper from Horford just over six minutes
into the game, but the Volunteers scored the next 16. Bradshaw’s jumper gave
the home team the lead and Duke Crews finished the burst with another jumper.
It was 50-31 at the half, but Florida made a push in the final 20 minutes,
despite giving up the first eight points of the second half. Bradshaw’s three
pushed the cushion to 58-31.
A 14-2 Gator run brought the visitors within 67-54 after a Noah jam with 9:23
left. Two free throws from Walter Hodge had Florida within 69-61 with just
over six minutes remaining, but Lofton responded with a jumper and two foul
shots each from Smith and Wayne Chism widened Tennessee’s lead to 75-61 with
under five minutes to go.
Florida, which committed 20 turnovers, couldn’t get closer than nine the rest
of the way.
“I don’t see team unity issues,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “I see guys
maybe trying to do too much and not sharing the ball very well. I think we
have guys trying to take too much upon themselves, trying to help the team and
do too much. Tonight, you could see that by the number of our turnovers.”
Manning supported his alma mater and brought Colts center Jeff Saturday and
wide receiver Brandon Stokley to the game.
“Peyton Manning talked to the team before the game,” Pearl said. “Some do the
talk, and some do the walk. Manning does it as an alumnus and supporter of UT.
For him to attend this game is significant.”
Before the game, the Volunteers honored Bradshaw, the lone senior on the
team…Tennessee is 29-2 at Thompson-Boling Arena over the last two seasons.