Gators bounce back from poor first half to down Vandy
Gainesville, FL (Sports Network) – Joakim Noah had 19 points and nine
rebounds, as top-ranked Florida rallied from a 12-point first-half deficit to
top No. 24 Vanderbilt, 74-64, at the O’Connell Center.
Lee Humphrey added 15 points on five three-pointers for the Gators (20-2, 7-0
SEC), who had the opening 13 points of the second half, on the way to their
13th straight victory. Taurean Green tallied 13 points for Florida, which
reached the 20-win plateau by the end of January for the first time in school
Al Horford ended with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the defending national
champions, who shot 16-of-22 from the field in the second half compared to a
9-for-26 clip for Vanderbilt.
Florida has won seven straight over Vanderbilt and 12 of the last 13 meetings,
but Wednesday’s victory was anything but a cake walk.
Derrick Byars was the lone Vanderbilt player in double figures with 21 points.
The Commodores (15-7, 5-3) had a four-game winning streak broken.
Vanderbilt, which is ranked nationally for the first time since 2004, had
claimed victories in its previous five contests against ranked squads. That
included triumphs over Alabama, Kentucky and LSU this month.
Florida fell victim to a 9-for-31 shooting effort in the first half and
trailed 41-30 at the break. However, a number of Vanderbilt miscues, combined
with better shot selection for the Gators led to a firestorm at the start of
the second half.
Horford jammed to start the second half, and after consecutive misses on long
distance shots by Byars, Green buried a three-pointer. Corey Brewer’s layup
made it 41-37, and the free-fall continued for the emotionally-spent
Vanderbilt assistant coach King Rice was thrown out of the game after he and
head coach Kevin Stallings argued about a blocked shot by Florida’s Walter
Hodge on Dan Cage. The ball was ruled out of bounds to the Gators, and Green
hit three free throws.
Green then buried a three for a 43-41 Gators lead with just over 16 minutes
The Commodores never led again. After Shan Foster’s layup tied the score at
45, the Gators went on an 11-2 spurt, ended by a jam from Noah with 12 minutes
George Drake’s dunk made it 56-52 at the midway point, but a three by Humphrey
essentially put the game out of reach, boosting the Gators to a 70-59 margin
with under three minutes left.
Drake’s layup boosted Vandy to a 16-9 lead early before Florida scored the
next nine points. Brewer’s three-pointer made it 18-16 at the midway point of
Vanderbilt then scored 12 consecutive points, capped by Alan Metcalfe’s layup
with 6:15 remaining until halftime. The largest lead for the Commodores was
35-23 after a pair of free throws by Byars with just over two minutes left in
Vanderbilt was 15-of-28 from the field in the opening half.
Florida hosts Tennessee on Saturday, while Vanderbilt is at home against
Georgia…Florida held the edge on the glass, 37-30.