GAINESVILLE-- The Florida Gators (13-11 5-6 SEC) forced Vanderbilt (9-15 0-11 SEC) into 19 turnovers & got a much needed win on Wednesday night, beating the Commodores 66-57.
Florida entered the game having lost their last three games & were looking for their first win since beating Ole Miss at home on January 30th. And after a layup by Commodores forward Clevon Brown, the Gators took an early three to two lead on a layup plus the free throw by center Kevarrius Hayes.
Both teams went scoreless the next two minutes until Gators guard Andrew Nembhard hit the first three pointer of the game. And following a dunk & another basket by the Commodores, the Gators strung together a 7-0 run that included two three pointers, one by guard Noah Locke & one by his backcourt mate Deandrae Ballard.
Florida built that six point lead into a double digit lead with just under seven minutes left in the first half, by forcing Vanderbilt into 9 turnovers & getting two baskets from forward Keyontae Johnson. But trailing 22-12, the Commodores got their first big run of the game when they scored 10 straight points, led by two three pointers by forward Matt Ryan. And including that 10-0 run, the Commodores outscored the Gators 21-9 to take a two point lead into the locker room after the first 20 minutes of the game.
Leading 33-31 to start the final 20 minutes of the game after shooting 44% in the first half, the Commodores came out looking to build on that lead. But Florida grabbed the lead again less than a minute into the second half when Hayes nailed a three pointer. And under a minute later, Nembhard drilled his own three pointer to make the score 37-33. Nembhard added a jumper to make it an eight point run by the Gators to start the second half.
Trailing by six, the Commodores finally got a basket nearly five minutes into the second half when guard Saben Lee hit a layup. The Commodores cut the deficit to two after a dunk by forward Aaron Nesmith. And two minutes later after a free throw by Smith, who led all players with 26 points, the Commodores were within one.
With the score 43-42, the Gators scored five straight points, three of the points coming from a shot behind the arc by guard Mike Okauru, to make the score 48-42. The Commodores got within two points twice before there was five minutes left in the game. But six straight points by guard Jalen Hudson gave the Gators an eight point lead. And the Commodores got no closer than five points in the final minutes of the game.
Florida looking to add another conference win to their resume, will travel to Tuscaloosa on Saturday to take on Alabama. Coverage begins on WDAE at 1:25pm with the tip-off scheduled for 2pm.