Very Different Vanderbilt Game This Time

It seems like it was a lot more than three weeks ago that the Florida basketball team produced its finest performance of the season in an 86-64 drubbing of The Vanderbilt Commodores. Since that afternoon in the O'Connell Center the Gators have lost three of four, allowing an average of 84 points in those contests.

As a result, Florida has gone from a team looking like a potential SEC contender to a squad struggling to relocate its confidence.

Saturday's game at Vanderbilt promises to be a completely different contest than the first meeting. Vandy is coming off its best performance in a half century or so, a 41-point humiliation of the Kentucky Wildcats. The Commodores have won four in a row and are right behind Tennessee in the SEC pecking order as far as NCAA consideration goes. Vandy helped the Gators get off to a fast start in the first meeting by missing a ton of insider shots early. That's not likely to happen again.

Vandy is led by one of the top candidates for SEC Player of the Year in forward Shan Foster. The multi-talented senior was not a factor in Gainesville scoring just seven points and grabbing three rebounds. However you have to expect he'll be closer to his typical game (19/5) this time around. Similarly A.J. Ogilvy did little in Gainesville (9/4), but is more likely to have a normal game (17/7) this time.

Both teams are 6-4 in SEC play and the loser can pretty much count on having to play on Thursday in the SEC Tournament.

Strange Building for Gator Rookies

Of course one of the subplots to any trip to Nashville is the bizarre configuration at Memorial Gym that has the playing floor elevated from the first rows of seats and puts the benches on the ends of the court. For Florida's five freshmen it will be a situation that have never experienced before. Florida Coach Billy Donovan talked about dealing with that situation.

"Sometimes when the guys are heading to the other end of the floor they can look back and get the call. We have things we normally go into when we get into transition and they should be able to get themselves into them. I think the stage for them playing is a lot more different than just the fact that the benches are behind the basket. The stage, the setting, the way the court is laid out is different, and I think that's part of the reason why they average so many more points at home than they do on the road. It is a unique environment that is unlike any other place in the country."

Despite dropping three out of four games the Gator coach remains positive about his team heading into the final six games of the regular season. He pointed out that his team has not had it easy in these recent contests for good reasons.

"The reality for us is that we played two very difficult road games at Tennessee and at Arkansas. If you look at it at the start of the year one of them is picked to win the East and the other is picked to win the West. I wasn't happy with the way we competed against Arkansas but we responded and competed very, very well against Tennessee. Then we came back and played well against Georgia. In (Wednesday's) game we faced a team that has a purpose that they are playing right now and incredible disposition by what's happened. I think when people look at what's happened (recently) the easy thing to say is these guys haven't gotten better, they've hit a wall or they're not playing as well as they could. I don't think that's necessarily the case."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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