Florida (19-7, 6-5 SEC) lost its fourth game in five tries and the storyline that's been following them around over the last three weeks has been their defense. But the Gator defense was solid on Saturday; they even prevented the Commodores from scoring a field goal for the final seven minutes. But Vandy (22-4, 7-4 SEC) made nine of ten free throws down the stretch to jump over the Gators for third place in the SEC East.
Neither team could create any distance between the other for the first 30 minutes of the game. Both Vandy and Florida held six-point leads in the first half, and Florida led 26-25 at the half.
With 13:14 left in the game, Vandy's Keegan Bell hit a 3-pointer to give the Dores a four-point edge, 39-35. Jai Lucas answered with a layup to bring the margin back to two, but Vandy then went on a 13-3 run to take a 12-point lead, 52-40, with 7:16 remaining when Andre Walker knocked down a 3.
The Gators then stepped up defensively and Vandy finished the game 0-for-6 from the field and Marreese Speights drew a charging foul. But two plays sunk the Gators. First, Dan Werner made a great defensive play, stealing a pass in the backcourt. He then passed to Nick Calathes who made the layup to tie the score at 53, but after the play, Walter Hodge bumped Vandy center A.J. Ogilvy and was called for a technical foul, offsetting Werner's play.
Then with the Gators trailing by one point with the ball and 19 seconds remaining, Lucas passed the ball to Calathes just shy of midcourt. Calathes caught the ball as he was jumping into the backcourt and was called for and over-and-back. The Gators lost possession and were forced to foul.
Florida had the ball down three with 13 seconds left, but both Werner and Calathes missed 3-pointers to seal Florida's fate. The Gators finished the game 1-of-15 from behind the arc.
Hodge, Calathes and Speights all finished in double-figures and Alex Tyus scored 7 off the bench. In Florida's win against Vanderbilt at the O'Dome, they held the SEC's leading scorer Shan Foster to just 7 points, but the Vandy guard scored a game-high 19 points on Saturday.
Florida held the Commodores to 37.9 percent shooting from the floor, but only made 39 percent of their shots. The difference was from behind the arc where the Commodores knocked down 8-of-27. They also made 9-of-10 free throws.
The Gators return home on Wednesday night when they face South Carolina.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski
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