Spiderman Lifts UF To Huge Road Win Over VU

NASHVILLE --- He's skinny as a bean pole with pipe cleaner skinny legs that seem to start at his shoulders and long lean tentacles for arms. From a physical standpoint he's not the most imposing guy around but Wednesday night Corey Brewer was a man among men with shoulders wide enough and strong enough to carry his teammates when they needed him the most.

Whether it was from the three-point line, slashing to the basket, playing defense or climbing the offensive boards, Brewer was the one-man gang who tore out Vanderbilt's heart and stomped it flat. He scored 26 points, ripped down 11 rebounds and stole the ball three times to lead the Gators (22-3, 8-3 SEC East) to a 73-68 win over the Commodores (13-9, 4-7 SEC East) before a crowd of 14,316 at Memorial Gymnasium.

The win was significant in a couple of ways for the Gators. First, it marked the first time in school history that Florida has made it through 25 regular season games with 22 victories. Second, it was win number 250 in the 12-year coaching career of Billy Donovan (215-95 at Florida, 250-115 overall).

The Gators were able to remain two games behind SEC East leader Tennessee (19-3, 10-1 SEC East), a 105-89 winner over Auburn. It was Florida's third road victory in five SEC games.

Brewer was averaging just seven points per game since spraining his ankle against Tennessee back on January 21. He was 9-36 from the field in the last six games and 2-13 from the three-point line. Wednesday night, that slump came to an end. Practically everything he threw up went in including three-pointers. With the much needed and vastly improved scoring performance (Brewer shot 8-13 from the field including a sizzling 5-6 from three-point range, 5-5 from the foul line), just about every aspect of Brewer's game lit up. He was a presence on the boards, a stabilizing factor on offense and a terror on defense. He only had three steals but he continually harassed Vandy ball handlers and his presence indirectly led to six other turnovers.

It was the timing of the points that was so critical for the Gators. He hit two of his three-balls when Florida was struggling offensively in the first half. The Gators trailed 18-13 when he drilled the second of his five threes at the 8:25 mark and with the Gators trailing by five again, 23-18, he delivered another three to cut Vandy's margin to two. Walter Hodge delivered his only three of the game on Florida's next possession to put Florida ahead for good, 24-23, and Joakim Noah followed that with a layup off an Al Horford pass. Brewer made it a 10-0 run when he got a steal at the top of the key and converted it into a layup at the other end with 2:50 remaining in the half.

Just for good measure, Brewer hit his fourth three-pointer of the first half with nine seconds remaining to boost the Gators to a 31-27 halftime lead.

Brewer was all about good timing in the second half. He got the Gators off to a rousing second half start with a rare four-point play. He was fouled by Shan Foster as he nailed his fifth three-pointer and he converted the free throw to boost Florida's lead to eight, 35-27, just 21 seconds into the half.

That play got the Gators off to a sizzling start. Florida hit eight of its first 13 second half shots to extend the lead to 11, 50-39, with 11:24 remaining in the game. From that point, Vandy made things interesting. The Gators were badly outrebounding the Commodores so Coach Kevin Stallings made a calculated gamble to crash the boards with all five players the rest of the game. Vanderbilt began to limit the Gators to a single shot and on their end of the floor, the Commodores got eight second chance points down the stretch.

Vandy closed within five of the Gators with 4:10 remaining in the game when Derrick Byars hit a three-pointer from the top of the key but Taurean Green countered for the Gators with a pair of free throws. Julian Terrell got a tip-in with 3:27 remaining, Vandy's third shot on that trip down the floor but Florida countered with a rainbow three from Lee Humphrey 15 seconds later to give the Gators an eight-point cushion.

Vandy chipped away to cut Florida's lead to 68-65 but Brewer came to the rescue once again for the Gators. Green missed a three-pointer with 52 seconds left but Brewer sneaked in on the backside to steal the rebound and stick it back to take the Florida lead back to five.

After Noah made one free throw for the Gators with 27 seconds left, Vandy came down the floor and got off two shots but Brewer snaked in among the taller trees to come away with the rebound for Florida. He was fouled as he tried to dribble out from the pack and with eight seconds remaining, he calmly delivered the two free throws that sealed the win for Florida.

For the first time in four games, the Gators won the rebounding battle, 35-29. Noah and Brewer led Florida's effort with eight rebounds apiece. The Gators improved to 14-0 this season when they have outrebounded their opponents.

Florida shot 26-55 from the field for 47.3 percent. Florida's guards had a combined 7-24 night including a second straight 1-9 effort from the field by Green, but the big guys bailed the Gators out by hitting 19 of their 29 shots. From three-point range the Gators were only 2-10 in the second half to finish the game 7-20.

Vanderbilt was held to 43.6 percent shooting (24-55). The Commodores were only 7-22 from the three-point stripe and their shooting miseries extended to the foul line where they were 13-22. Florida, on the other hand, was 14-17 from the foul line.

The Gators continue their road trip Saturday when they face Arkansas (16-8, 5-6 SEC West), which dropped a 73-70 SEC West contest on the road at Ole Miss (14-10, 4-7 SEC West) Tuesday night. Vanderbilt will travel to Georgia Saturday. The Bulldogs (14-10, 4-7 SEC East) lost to Kentucky (16-9, 6-5 SEC East), 68-61, Tuesday night.

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