Gators Open SEC Play in Nashville

Armed with an 11-3 record the Gator basketball team will play its SEC opener on the road Saturday afternoon when they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy is also 11-3 having lost to Cincinnati, Western Kentucky and Illinois. Vandy's best win is probably an 88-83 decision over Missouri. The Commodores also beat St. Mary's 72-70 and Arizona 84-72.

Vandy is led by the front court tandem of forward Jeffrey Taylor (14.1/5.8) and center AJ Ogilvy (12.5/5.5). Senior guard Jermaine Beal gives them a third starter in double figures (12.7) and freshman swing man John Jenkins provides scoring off the bench (10.9). Vanderbilt is traditionally an excellent shooting team and this season's squad is no exception. The ‘Dores are making 49 percent of their shots and 36 percent from beyond the arc. Jenkins (34-71, .479) is one of the best long range shooters in the SEC. Vandy does not force or commit many turnovers, but they are averaging six blocked shots a game with Ogilvy and his backup Festus Ezeli swatting away 24 each.

Florida coach Billy Donovan is 18-9 against Vanderbilt since taking over the Florida program. He actually lost five of his first eight against Vandy, but since February of 2001 the Gators have come out on top in 15 of 18 meetings. Last year Florida won both meetings. The Gators had perhaps their best performance of the year in drilling Vandy 94-69 in Nashville behind a career best 27 points from Chandler Parsons. The rematch in Gainesville was closer, but the Gators posted an 82-68 win with Erving Walker's 17 off the bench leading the way.

The game is set for noon Eastern Time, meaning an 11:00 a.m. tip in Music City, USA.


Florida will try to improve on its SEC worst 29 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line. The Gators are coming off a dismal 3-for-24 performance against N.C. State. Amazingly enough Florida made its last two long range shots in that one, including Chandler Parsons' 70-foot miracle shot at the buzzer that won the game.

The Gators are also trying to get sophomore Ray Shipman back on track. Shipman had an excellent four game stretch in which he scored 29 points (7.3) in wins over FSU, Michigan State, Rutgers and FAMU. However in the five games since he has scored a total of just eight points (1.6). His productivity is a key to the Gators ability to limit the minutes for Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.


Vanderbilt is ranked No. 22 by which is my preferred source for such information. The Gators, by comparison check in at No. 42. actually projects every outcome going forward and has the Gators losing this one 71-64. However it has the Gators finishing 9-7 in the SEC and 21-10 heading into the SEC Tournament.

For Vandy to win it will have to buck one recent trend. The Gators have won their SEC opener for the last eight seasons. The last time Florida lost an SEC opener was in the 2000-01 season when South Carolina hit a buzzer beater to upset the Gators in Columbia.

The rest of the SEC schedule Saturday has South Carolina at Auburn, Mississippi State at Ole Miss, Georgia visits Kentucky and Alabama travels to LSU. Tennessee will host Kansas on Sunday.


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