Vanderbilt Will Be Much Tougher

Four weeks ago the Gators coasted to a remarkably easy win over Vanderbilt in Nashville. If Billy Donovan's youngsters think it'll be a repeat of that 94-69 blowout they could be in for an awakening. Florida hosts Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon in a game they have to win to stay tied for the top spot in the SEC East.

In the first meeting, Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy (14.7/7.0) was bothered by plantar fasciitis in his foot and appeared to be battling the flu as well. He played just 15 minutes scoring four points. But Ogilvy is healthy now and as a result coach Kevin Stallings has his team on a roll winning four of their last five games. Vandy is 16-9 overall, 5-6 in the SEC and are in good position for an NIT berth though an NCAA bid seems out of reach without winning the SEC Tournament.

Donovan said he knows this game will be a lot more difficult with Ogilvy at full strength.

"Ogilvy is a guy when we played against him in Nashville was dealing with some health issues. I don't know if he was sick or had a foot problem; maybe it was both at the same time. I think Kevin in the second half didn't play him a lot and maybe felt at that point in time it was better off getting him a little rest. He was definitely not the normal player he was health-wise. He's one of the better front court players in our league. He's a really good player and we're going to have to try and handle him with more than one person. We're going to have to do a good job collectively as a group around him."

Last weekend the Gators got ready to face a team they had already beaten badly and ended up losing the rematch with Georgia. I asked Donovan if there's a parallel heading into the Vandy rematch.

"I think there's a lot of similarities, Larry. Coming down to league play, certainly on our side it's been wacky. Everybody's kind of bunched up together. Similar situation to Georgia a little bit although they're a different team and a different time. It's a team where we went in and we won at their place and you know they'll come in very excited to play. On the other side of that they have played well. They won at Auburn. They beat Kentucky. This is somewhat of a similar situation, but there's probably different things that go into the game and what we'll need to do to be successful."

The first game was a highlight afternoon for Gator sophomore forward Chandler Parsons who scored a career high 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds. The Gators also got solid play off the bench from Erving Walker who scored 17 points and Kenny Kadji who added eight.

Kadji is coming off his best game in a couple of months with eight points and eight rebounds in the win over Alabama. Kadji has had a typical freshman year. He scored 19 points in the first eight games (2.4) then broke out with 87 points over the next 11 contests (7.9). After scoring just five points in the next four games he's on another upswing with seven points at Georgia before the strong performance against the Crimson Tide. I asked Donovan how important it is to get solid play from his 6-10 freshman.

"Besides the fact of the points and the rebounds Larry, I really believe that it was more about his focus and his energy. He really gave us a presence at the rim. Defensively he gave us some size up front. His biggest challenge every day has been being a consistent player, understanding how hard he's got to work. He reminds me a lot of the freshmen last year that just did not consistently work at the level we needed them to. That's kind of been his 'M.O.' so far this year. He's really been up and down in those areas and I think generally those type of things in practice show up in the games. There's no question when he's really energized, focused and understands that he's got to play active he really helps our team. He went through a stretch early in the SEC where it was, wow he's really coming along. Then he kind of had a dip there and now he's kind of had another jump. It'll be interesting to see if he can maintain and build off the positive game he had against Alabama."

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Walter Hodge is now 38 points shy of reaching 1,000 for his Gator career. The next win he plays in will also make him the "winningest" player in school history, breaking a three-way tie with Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard who played in 112 victories.

Chandler Parsons might want this game to be in Nashville too. He knocked down 7-of-8 shots behind the three-point line in the first Vandy game, but he's made just 3-of-19 since.

The Gators have won 16 straight in the O'Dome which is tied for the fifth best home court winning streak in Gator history. The school record is 24 in a row which was set from March 2006 through November of 2007.


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