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Vols beat Florida 65-54, earn No. 4 seed in SEC tourney

Tennessee guard Yves Pons (35) shoots against Florida forward Omar Payne (5) during an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Randy Sartin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tennessee guard Yves Pons (35) shoots against Florida forward Omar Payne (5) during an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (Randy Sartin/Pool Photo via AP) (Randy Sartin/Pool Photo via AP)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Victor Bailey Jr., John Fulkerson and Keon Johnson scored 14 points apiece and Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Florida 65-54 on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Tennessee (17-7, 10-7 SEC) secured the No. 4 seed and a bye into the Friday's quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

Fulkerson added seven rebounds and four assists and Josiah-Jordan James had eight points and 10 boards for the Volunteers.

Florida used a 13-2 run to take a 31-17 lead with five minutes left in the first half but Tennessee scored 11 of the final 13 first-half points to trim its deficit to five at the break. Florida missed seven consecutive, and 9 of 10, from the field as the Vols ripped off a 21-4 spurt — including eight points by Bailey — to make it 53-43 with 7:33 to play.

Tyree Appleby had 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting and Colin Castleton added 11 points for Florida (13-9, 9-7).

The fifth-seeded Gators play the winner between No. 12 seed Texas A&M and No. 13 seed Vanderbilt in Thursday's second round.

After being outrebounded 18-16 in the first half, Tennessee was plus-11 on the glass in the second. Florida had just 21 points after the break, its lowest-scoring half of the season.

The Gators went into the game leading the SEC in free-throw percentage (.760, 37th NCAA), field-goal percentage (.472, 42nd NCAA) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.359, 78th NCAA). On Sunday, they shot 41.7% from the field, made 3 of 13 (23.1%) from behind the arc and hit 11 of 18 (61.1%) free throws.

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