ATLANTA — Nine minutes, 28 seconds.
Jordan McRae's 3-pointer with 2:48 remaining ended such a drought without a field goal for the Tennessee Volunteers. It also tied the game at 49-49 and revived the Vols after Jeronne Maymon's technical and eventual fouling out put top-ranked Florida in control late.
Then, the Gators slid the lid over the basket for good.
The Vols sputtered to 14 second-half points and fell to top-ranked Florida, 56-49, Saturday afternoon in the SEC tournament semifinals at the Georgia Dome.
After a double-digit first-half lead put Florida's now 25-game win streak in jeopardy, the Vols and head coach Cuonzo Martin "just came up short" of a marquee victory and a spot in the SEC championship game.
"Our guys, we felt like we came into the game ready to win the game," Martin said, "we just came up short. The two best defensive teams in the league, and they made the plays down the stretch."
McRae led the Vols with 15 points, while Jarnell Stokes and Maymon combined for 23 points and 16 rebounds before the latter big man fouled out on a game-defining play.
At the 4:39 mark of the second half, with UT in the midst of its near-10-minute field goal drought, Maymon was called for a personal foul. In disagreement, he pumped his fist in frustration at referee Pat Adams.
Adams' questionable whistle and subsequent T-ing up of Maymon gave Florida four free throws, which it hit all of despite going 1-of-7 from the line up to that point.
The sixth and final lead change of the game proved too much for Tennessee to overcome.
"We talked about it before the game — the team that makes the plays down the stretch (will win)," Martin said. "Unfortunately for us, some costly technical fouls probably shifted the game."
The Vols looked poised to make a statement early. They took the lead at the 13:31 mark of the first half, holding the Gators without a field goal for a near five-minute mark and convincingly grabbing the game's momentum.
Tennessee even pushed its lead over the nation's top-ranked team to double digits before Scottie Wilbekin nailed a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to make it 35-28 Tennessee.
In an instant, though, the second half became a barnburner.
Florida retook both the lead and momentum just five minutes into the final period, but the Vols didn't croak. UT answered right back, taking a 43-38 lead after a 6-0 run that culminated in a Stokes layup.
That would be the last Tennessee field goal until McRae's late three.
"In my opinion, they're the best defensive team in the country," Martin said. "And I've seen a lot of teams and watched teams from afar, but they're probably the best in the country."
Martin's claim was justified in the final frame by Florida, who held the Vols to just 5-of-20 shooting in the second half after they shot 53.8 percent (14-of-26) in the first half.
Florida forward Patric Young, who scored a game-high 16 points, just had a feeling.
"I could just feel like an inner sense that they were going to have a difficult time scoring," Young said. "Especially seeing Scottie (Wilbekin), how he was guarding McRae and how fast our double teams were coming in the post.
"So we were just handling them really well and it resulted in that span of them not scoring."
Despite the Vols' shooting woes in the second half, they were right there thanks to the early success and their own defensive intensity. They never trailed by more than four until the final 15 seconds.
But a game that was up for grabs, just like when the Vols lost to Florida at home on Feb. 11, went the way of the nation's No. 1 team.
"I thought the game really could have gone either way," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "And I think the game could have gone either way in Knoxville, as well."
The Vols will now wait to see if their name is called on Selection Sunday. The five-game win streak UT took into Saturday's game, along with a tough-nosed performance against Florida, looks to have the Vols in position for Martin's first NCAA tournament appearance.
Stokes, along with the rest of the Vols, feels like that shouldn't even be in question. But that doesn't make the agony of Saturday's defeat any more bearable.
"I felt like the statement was already made coming into this game," Stokes said. "I really wanted this win, and I felt like we were right there and just didn't make plays down the stretch like we usually do."