Saturday , Feb , 17 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Byars Market: Gators’ stock drops in loss to Vandy

Nashville, TN (Sports Network) – Derrick Byars and Shan Foster scored 24
points apiece, as Vanderbilt rolled over top-ranked Florida, 83-70, at raucous
Memorial Gymnasium.

In the end, Joakim Noah couldn’t even take his ball and go home.

Noah and Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings got into an argument early
in the second half when Stallings held the basketball during a dead ball
period and refused to hand it to Noah.

The Florida star tried grabbing it away, and the two exchanged unpleasant
words before officials stepped in.

It was just one of many things that didn’t go the Gators’ way in their first
conference loss of the season. Florida caught Vanderbilt on a hot shooting
afternoon — the Commodores shot 57 percent from the floor and drained 10
three-pointers — and didn’t help itself with an uncharacteristic 22
turnovers.

Chants of “overrated” made their way through Memorial Gymnasium as Gators head
coach Billy Donovan emptied his bench with over one minute remaining. Noah
scored 15 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, while Corey Brewer and Al
Horford had 13 points apiece.

However, Horford and Lee Humphrey combined to shoot 4-of-17 from the floor for
Florida (24-3, 11-1 SEC), which saw its 17-game winning streak come to an end.

Byars and Foster carried the Commodores (18-8, 8-4) all game with sterling
shooting and abundant athleticism. Byars had eight assists and five steals,
while Foster drained five three-pointers.

“Well, that was a lot of fun,” Stallings said. “Our team played with as much
resolve and competitiveness as they possibly could. Shan and Derrick played
like they had to in order for us to beat a team like Florida. We caught them
on an afternoon where they missed shots they’d normally make. We were
fortunate in some respects for that.”

The Gators got lost in a three-point shooting barrage early in the second
half. Foster, Alex Gordon and Ross Neltner hit three straight three-pointers
around a pair of Horford free throws to give Vanderbilt a 46-33 edge.

However, Florida reeled off seven straight points capped by another two
Horford free throws to bring the Gators within 46-40.

Yet, it continued to be an uphill struggle for the nation’s top team.

Corey Brewer’s three-pointer cut the deficit to 68-59 with 5:50 left, but
Florida never got any closer. Over the final five-plus minutes, Horford threw
a pass directly to a Commodore cheerleader, Vanderbilt held on to the
basketball and made its free throws down the stretch.

“The difference for us was that we didn’t have one of our better shooting
games,” Donovan said. “But the fact that when you come on an opposing team’s
court and they shoot 55 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three-
point line and they make 10 three-point shots, it is going to be hard to
overcome that. They did a good job of making shots, of knocking down shots.”

Byars got into a groove near the end of the first half, scoring nine of his 11
points during an 11-5 stretch. He buried a jumper, drained a step-back three,
then converted a reverse, one-handed jam off a give-and-go.

Byars ended the opening 20 minutes by taking Brewer off the dribble to the
right block, leaving the defender on the ground and the ball in the basket as
the buzzer sounded for a 35-27 Vanderbilt lead.

The Commodores shot 60 percent from the floor and drained five three-pointers
in the half.

Game Notes

The Gators recovered from a halftime deficit earlier in the week at Alabama,
but have now lost all three of its games this season when trailing at
intermission…Vanderbilt leads the all-time series, 60-53…Horford had 11
rebounds, as Florida outrebounded the Commodores 32-25…Florida made 8-of-21
from beyond the arc…Vanderbilt scored 25 points off turnovers.

FLORIDA VANDERBILT