Tennessee's first SEC home game couldn't be decided in regulation.
Instead, the Volunteers took the Florida Gators to overtime, despite never leading in the second half.
The Gators wouldn't relinquish its lead in overtime, either.
Florida (13-3, 2-0 SEC) scored the first six points in the extra period and defeated Tennessee (10-6, 0-2 SEC) 81-75 in overtime in front of a Thompson Boling-Arena crowd of 19,846.
"(Florida's a) veteran team that played a lot of basketball together," said Tony Jones, who is acting as head coach during Bruce Pearl's eight-game conference suspension. "They were projected to win the SEC East and win the SEC outright and we had the opportunity to beat them and let it get away."
It was the Gators first victory in Knoxville since the 2004-2005 season, the final year of Buzz Peterson's tenure as coach at Tennessee, and Gators' coach Billy Donovan knows the importance of the win, even this early in the conference season.
"It's a 16-game league schedule and certainly any win on the road is valuable," Donovan said.
The loss was yet another game in which the Vols had chances down the stretch to win.
"It was just so close for us that is hurts so bad to lose that game," freshman forward Tobias Harris said.
The first half was dominated by runs from each team.
The Gators went on a 6-0 run to take a 15-14 lead midway through the first half. The Vols answered with 14-2 run to take an eight-point lead at 29-21with 5:46 remaining in the first half. The Gators then closed the half on a 14-2 run to take a 32-31 lead into the locker room.
Junior guard Cameron Tatum was a bright spot for the Vols in the first half, scoring 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including 2-of-2 from three-point range.
"Cameron is a competitor," Jones said. "His mindset tonight was to score the basketball, and he did that tonight. I'm proud of Cameron."
Tatum would finish as the game's leading scorer, with season-high 21 points on 4-of-7 shooting (3-of-6 from three-point range). The performance comes one game after Tatum was held scoreless against Arkansas on Saturday.
"That was in my head," Tatum said of the Arkansas game. "Not necessarily 20-something points, but something just to help the team out and that's what I tried to do. I hit a couple (of shots) and was kind of in a rhythm. I also tried to do a good job of finding my teammates as well."
Florida extended its lead to eight points, its biggest lead of the game, early in the second half at 48-40 on a Chandler Parsons 3-pointer.
The Vols kept fighting in the second half, never letting the Florida lead get above eight points, but the Gators found a way to hold on to its lead.
Junior guard Scotty Hopson scored the Vols' first seven points of the second half after scoring just five points in the first 20 minutes of play. Hopson finished the game with 20 points on 6-of-15 shooting (2-of-4 from three-point range).
Harris notched his third-straight double-double, with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
"(He's) really playing consistent basketball for us," Jones said of the freshman.
Freshman point guard Trae Golden's steal and lay-up with 3:50 remaining in regulation brought the Vols even with the Gators for the first time in the second half, at 64 all.
Neither team scored during the final 1:42 of regulation, with Florida guard Kenny Boynton missing a desperation three-point shot as time expired to send the game to overtime.
"Our guys did a good job of not allowing them to win in regulation," Jones said.
The Gators got just four points from its bench, but didn't need any more production.
All five Florida starters scored in double-figures.
Forward Alex Tyus led the Gators with 18 points, including Florida's first seven points to open the game. Tyus was a tough matchup in the paint for the Vol all night, grabbing seven rebounds and shooting 8-of-12 from the field. His steal and dunk with 2:18 left in overtime gave the Gators a 74-68 lead.
Despite not scoring until the 5:19 mark of the first half, Florida's Chandler Parsons scored 16 points, and was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Jones was very appreciative of the fans support of the Vols. The return of students for the spring semester of classes helped provide a home-court advantage for the Vols, especially in the second half. The student section appeared to be nearly full 35 minutes before tip-off.
"First of all, I would like to thank the fans," Jones said. "They were unbelievable. We had nearly 20,000 fans who came out and really support the Big Orange.
"I'm sorry we let them down tonight."
Senior John Fields started at center for the first time all season. Senior Brian Williams had started 14 of the team's first 15 games, with sophomore Kenny Hall getting the nod against the College of Charleston on Dec. 31.
Fields finished the game with six points, rebounds in 21 minutes.
Coming to your city
Tennessee will return to action Saturday at home against in-state rival Vanderbilt. The game will be at noon. ESPN's GameDay will be on hand for the Vols and Lady Vols, who also played the Commodores Saturday at 8 p.m.
GameDay begins at 10 a.m. and doors will open at 8:30 a.m. All fans must have a ticket to the game to enter the arena.