Slow start hinders Florida

The Gators struggled to get going offensively to begin the game and couldn’t make up the ground, as Vanderbilt ended its seven-game losing streak with a 67-61 win over Florida on Tuesday night.

After starting the game 0-9 from the field in Memorial Gym, the Gators were staring down a 15-0 deficit just 7:38 into the game. Alex Murphy came off the bench and took the ball to the rim, scoring on back-to-back baskets to get Florida on the board. His energy off the bench helped the Gators get started, and they forced three straight turnovers with the full court press.

A 10-0 Florida run got it back into the game, but Vanderbilt would hold the lead throughout the game largely because of the hot start.

“We had opportunities,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said on the postgame radio show. “We turned the ball over or couldn’t come down with a rebound. Call it like it is, my job as a coach is to get a team ready to play from an emotional standpoint and we did not have it, for whatever reason. That was the disappointing part.”

Florida was able to get the lead down to single digits late in the first half and went to halftime trailing by eight points. After the Gators showed more energy early in the second half, Vanderbilt continued to stretch the lead out any time it got close. That theme continued to play out during the second half.

Florida cut the lead to three points with 6:55 left to play after Eli Carter hit a jumper, but it wouldn’t get any closer than that. Vanderbilt freshman Riley LaChance hit a three-pointer on the next possession and Wade Baldwin was fouled while taking a three and hit all of the free throws, pushing the Commodores’ lead to nine points.

“We were a step late, step slow and a step late reacting to things like loose balls and hustle plays,” Donovan said. “We really didn’t get much done at all.”

The good news for Florida is Michael Frazier broke out of his shooting slump. After making a three-pointer in a school-record 41 straight games, the junior didn’t hit one in either of the last two games. That ended on Tuesday when Frazier led the Gators with 21 points on 4-6 shooting from long range, adding five rebounds and six steals.

“We tried to get him aggressive and ride him a little bit since we’re having such a difficult time scoring,” Donovan said. “The shooting percentages by some guys are just astronomically low, and we don’t get anything out of it.”

The Gators return home to face Kentucky on Saturday at 9 p.m. ESPN’s College Gameday will originate from the O’Connell Center for the game.

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