A Florida player made a joke about Zakai Zeigler’s height during the postgame handshake line after the Tennessee men’s basketball team beat the Gators on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, Volunteers coach Rick Barnes said.
A slight brouhaha ensued in front of the scorer’s table following the jab at the 5-foot-9 guard. It ended with Tennessee players doing the “Gator chomp” as Florida players exited the court.
“There is a lot of chirping that goes on and a lot of things can happen going through the game,” Barnes said on “The Rick Barnes Show.” “I think someone made a comment about Zakai being too small. It can be a lot of different things.”
The Vols topped Florida 78-71, coming back from a 13-point deficit. Zeigler had 11 points, four assists and six rebounds. Only one Florida player — 6-foot-7 forward Anthony Duruji — had six rebounds.
It is the second straight game that Tennessee and an opponent have had a contentious meeting in front of the scorer’s table. UT and LSU personnel had a verbal kerfuffle next to the scorer’s table after an LSU staff member apparently threw a basketball into the stands during pregame warmups.
Wednesday’s situation developed following a joke at Zeigler’s expense, which prompted a reaction from the Vols.
Forward Uros Plavsic yelled toward the Florida players gathered on the court. Vols assistant coach Rod Clark ushered Zeigler away from the situation.
Something set off Gators guard Tyree Appleby. He made a mad dash toward the Tennessee bench area, but walk-on Alex Klatsky restrained him and he was pulled away by multiple teammates.
UT forward Olivier Nkamhoua waved the Florida players off the court. Guard Justin Powell kept Plavsic away from the conflict, while Barnes sternly spoke to Plavsic.
Vols guards Victor Bailey Jr. and Josiah-Jordan James were among the players doing the Gator chomp in a flashback to UT’s win in Gainesville in January 2019.
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Tennessee had two technical fouls against Florida. Santiago Vescovi drew one after a loose-ball scrum on the court that resulted in a double-technical. Appleby drew the other side.
Plavsic picked up a technical after pushing UF forward Jason Jitoboh from behind during a free-throw rebound.
Barnes said UT was warned during the game because Plavsic was talking to the Florida bench.
“We’re going to be classy in the way we do things,” Barnes said. “Do I want to play with emotion and fire? Absolutely. But we’re not going to get technical fouls. We don’t need it.”
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson.
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