KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- In a conference loaded with heavyweights, Ron Slay and Tennessee are looking more than more like a contender.
Slay scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Volunteers extended their season-high winning streak to six games with a 66-59 Southeastern Conference over No. 5 Florida.
While Kentucky's 14-game winning streak is the best in the nation, Tennessee (15-6, 7-3 SEC East) has the second longest winning streak in the conference and the Volunteers appear to be in good shape of earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of these young men for the effort they gave tonight," Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "Florida's a very good club, but some of their shots just wouldn't go through today."
Slay won his head-to-head duel with Matt Bonner and also won their trash-talking battle. Slay, regarded as one of the nation's biggest talkers, had something to say early and often to Bonner, who scored 19 points.
Despite Slay's antics, he was the driving force behind the win, according to Peterson said.
"The team really listened to Ron Slay before the game, when it comes to keeping our focus as we go forth," Peterson said. "He will control them (emotions)."
A 3-pointer by Jon Higgins with 5:15 remaining gave the Volunteers the lead for good at 51-50. A basket by Brandon Crump made it 59-54 for Tennessee with 2:33 to go.
Bonner drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two points before Higgins was fouled on a 3-pointer by Justin Hamilton and made all three foul shots. Bonner answered with another basket, but he traveled with 16 seconds left and Florida trailing, 63-59.
Florida (20-4, 9-2) received a poor effort from freshman Anthony Roberson, who made 1-of-10 shots for two points. Roberson entered averaging 14.1 points to lead the Gators.
Roberson was not the only Gator to misfire. Brett Nelson and freshman Matt Walsh each made just 1-of-6 shots and combined with Roberson to shoot 1-of-13 from beyond the arc.
"It's tough to overcome when our three shooters, Brett Nelson, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh go a combined 3-of-22," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It's tough to win that way. We have too much firepower to have scored just 59 points."
The unheralded Crump scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Crump's energy and hustle helped rally Tennessee from an early eight-point deficit.
"I'm proud of the job that Brandon Crump did," Peterson said.
"I thought that Brandon Crump was better than he was the last time we played them," Donovan said. "He hurt us on transition, and on the offensive boards with his putbacks."
Florida scored the game's first eight points, holding Tennessee without a point until Crump threw home a dunk. A pair of foul shots by Bonnell Colas gave Florida an 18-9 lead before Crump's two baskets capped a 14-5 tear that tied the game.
A 3-pointer by Bonner from the top of the key gave the Gators a 46-39 lead with 12:19 remaining. The Gators managed only two baskets for nearly the next eight minutes as the Volunteers climbed back into the game.
David Lee scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and Hamilton added 11 points. The Gators fell to 5-2 on the road.
"We played an unintelligent game offensively and didn't execute when it mattered," said Donovan, who was also upset with the officiating. "We played the first half with only four fouls, but in the second half, it was foul, foul, foul, foul."
Tennessee had just one foul shot in the first half but shot 80 percent (16-of-20) over the final 20 minutes.