Gators have a TALL task at Vanderbilt

Facing a lineup with two 7-footers, the Florida Gators will travel to Nashville on Tuesday to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in an arena that is very kind to the home team.

 Florida Gators (13-6, 5-2) vs Vanderbilt Commodores (11-8, 3-4)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016; 9 p.m.

Nashville, Tennessee; Memorial Gym


Mike White brushed off any notion that playing in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym is that much different than anywhere else. The raised floor is only part of the issue teams face when they travel to Nashville. They also have to deal with the benches behind the baskets instead of on the sideline. White just doesn’t want to make more of it than what it is.

“I think the bigger challenge is Kevin Stallings and the five that he puts out there, the actions that they run, and how well they execute,” White said Monday in his weekly press conference. “I’m not sure how much of a factor it is. It’s a place that is obviously unique. It has a lot of great history and tradition. We won’t spend a lot of time on it. We spent about 10 seconds on it (Sunday) -- ‘by the way, for you new guys, before the tip we will be sitting on the baseline’. That is probably all the talking we’ve done about it.”

The big task for the day is going up against two 7-foot starters for Vanderbilt. Forward Luke Kornet and center Damian Jones are part of one of the largest lineups the Gators will face all season. At this point, he doesn’t see the Commodore’s size inside adjusting too much of his game plan. That would be to keep getting the ball inside to sophomore center John Egbunu.

“Going into every game we’ll have a plan for us,” White said.  Specifically, we want paint touches and that has been our mantra for about a month now. We’ve gotten better with it. John’s gotten better with using his body, understanding how to get deeper position. Our guards have gotten better at getting him the ball in positions to be successful. Despite Vanderbilt being bigger, stronger, and longer, we still want paint touches. But, we still want to take what the defense gives us (as well).

“We’ll go into it knowing it might be a little more difficult against a bigger team. We might have to rely more upon driving the basketball, making shots from the perimeter and getting to the foul line.”



Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.



F Justin Leon (JR)

6-8, 196



F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220



C John Egbunu (SO)

6-11, 255



G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183



G Chris Chiozza (SO)

6-0, 175




Vanderbilt Projected Starters




F Luke Kornet (JR)

7-1, 240



F Jeff Roberson (SO)

6-6, 220



C Damian Jones (JR)

7-0, 245



G Wade Baldwin IV (SO)

6-3, 194



G Riley LaChance (SO)

6-2, 192



It isn’t just the big guys the Gators have to worry about. Vanderbilt can really shoot the ball from the outside as well, including the versatile Kornet.

“They have a really talented lineup,” White said. “It’s as talented as I remember any of Coach Stalling’s teams being. They’re extremely difficult to defend, as are 6-8 teams in this league, but these guys present a unique challenge in that they play two 7-footers and one that can shoot the three. Wade Baldwin is as talented a point guard as there is in the SEC. They have tremendous length, starting with him. They just clog up the paint with two 7-footers. One is extremely athletic and the other is leading the league in blocked shots.

“Then they have the lead shooters. They have 4-5 guys that can really fill it up. They complement those other positives.”

The Gators have learned to focus on themselves and the things they can control. The team shooting was not good to start the year and they concentrated on being a defensive team. That defense has paid dividends and now with some confidence the shooting has improved.

The Gators must still rely on that defense to win Tuesday according to White.

“Going into Vandy, especially playing at Vandy, first your focus has to be off the charts,” he said. “We will see a bunch of different actions. We have to defend 8-9 guys that can score. We have to be mentally engaged. These guys can run off a bunch of points in a hurry if you don’t come correct defensively.” 

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