Commodores hold off Gators for 4th win in 5 games
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Embarrassed by an ugly loss at Kentucky, the Vanderbilt Commodores made sure they bounced back with possibly their best win this season.
Damian Jones scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as Vanderbilt beat Florida 60-59 Tuesday night for the quality win they’ve so needed desperately.
“To get beat by 19 points against Kentucky is just inexcusable for the expectations we have of ourselves,” Vandy guard Wade Baldwin IV said. “And a great Florida team coming in here ... you got to bring that intensity. We lacked that at Rupp. We need to bounce back and just get win, especially at home.”
The Commodores (12-8, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) won for the fourth time in five games. Even better, this marked the Commodores’ first victory over a team with a Top 30 RPI. Vanderbilt lost its first six such games this season and needed a victory before February. They got it against Florida, which came in tied for second in the SEC with an RPI of 22.
Baldwin led Vanderbilt with 24 points, scoring 10 of the Commodores’ final 14 points to preserve the win.
“We feel good about scoring one more point than they did,” Vandy coach Kevin Stallings.
Florida (13-7, 5-3) snapped a three-game winning streak.
KeVaughn Allen hit three 3-pointers in the final 32 seconds trying to rally the Gators. Kasey Hill also added 16, Dorian Finney-Smith had 12 and Chris Chiozza 10.
The Gators not only came in on a winning streak, they were coming off the highest-scoring game by an SEC team this season after beating Auburn 95-63 last weekend. But Florida lost junior forward Justin Leon to an apparent concussion in the opening minutes, and the Gators also struggled through too many shooting droughts in their worst shooting game this season.
“This is a building I’m not sure I’ve had any success in,” Florida coach Mike White said. “I don’t like Memorial Gym very much.”
Florida led only once early at 3-2 and tied it up three times, the last at 9. Jones scored the next five points to put Vanderbilt ahead to stay as part of an 11-0 spurt, and the Commodores led 30-19 at halftime.
Vanderbilt led by 14 before starting to miss shots, too. Florida went on a 12-2 spurt to pull within 44-40.
The Gators then missed their next 11 shots in a scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes. Vandy wasn’t much better, missing seven shots. They managed only a layup by Baldwin in that stretch so Finney-Smith’s first 3 of the game with 4:26 left pulled Florida back within 48-43.
Baldwin’s final two free throws with 7.1 seconds left gave the Commodores the win when Allen hit the Gators’ seventh 3 of the half.
Florida: The Gators shot a season-low 32.9 percent (23 of 70), just missing the 33.3 percent they shot in a loss at Michigan State in December. ... They also had hit an average of 9.8 3-pointers over the past four games. They missed their first 11 against a Vanderbilt defense that ranks second nationally allowing just 27.3 percent shooting outside the arc.
Vanderbilt: Jones turned in just his fourth double-double this season and first since Jan. 5. ... Riley LaChance came off the bench for the first time in his 55 career games and finished scoreless. ... Vandy took advantage of the Gators’ foul trouble with a big edge at the free throw line and hit 21 of 33 compared to 6 of 10 for Florida.
ELBOW TO FACE
Leon caught an apparent elbow in the opening minutes and went to the floor face down. Officials stopped play on the other end, and the junior was helped up after a couple minutes before being taken straight to the locker room. Officials reviewed the play, but no foul was given. White said Leon didn’t feel well and the Gators will know more about his status Wednesday.
Florida: Hosts West Virginia on Saturday.
Vanderbilt: Visits Texas on Saturday.