Vandy Offers Challenge, Opportunity

The Gator basketball team has two more games to go in the regular season, and winning either one of them should be enough to return Billy Donovan's team to the NCAA Tournament. Florida is sitting in the mid-to-upper 40's as far as the RPI is concerned and a win over Vandy (No. 16) and at Kentucky (No. 4) would do wonders for Florida's NCAA resume.

Of course, getting a win over a top 20 RPI team is a lot easier said than done. Vandy, which comes to Gainesville Tuesday night, is one of the deepest, most balanced teams in the SEC. The Commodores also have plenty to play for themselves. The ‘Dores enter the week one game back of Kentucky for the SEC Championship. While Kentucky coach John Calipari angered many in the SEC last week by claiming a conference title would mean nothing to him, it would mean the world to Vanderbilt.

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The first meeting between the teams was the SEC opener for both and saw Vandy score 53 second half points for a 95-87 win. The game was totally dominated by Vandy center A.J. Ogilvy who scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. While Ogilvy was having a huge game, Florida's centers were missing inaction. Vernon Macklin scored just two points with one rebound while Eric Murphy scored four and pulled down three boards. On top of that, both Gator centers fouled out in the game.

On the positive side the Vandy game was the last solid all around game for Dan Werner who scored 11 points with four rebounds and four assists. Kenny Boynton (28) and Erving Walker (22) combined for 50 points, and the Gators made 13-of-27 from 3-point range.

Florida has won the last eight matchups with Vandy in the O'Dome including last year's 82-68 contest.

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The Commodores are led by the trio of Jermaine Beal (14.6/2.3), Jeffrey Taylor (14.3/5.3) and Ogilvy (13.8/6.1). But it's the depth, especially in the front court that sets Vandy apart. Ogilvy and Taylor get plenty of help from Andre Walker (6.3/5.4), Festus Ezeli (3.9/3.3) and Steve Tchiengang (3.2/2.5). Florida's lack of depth could be an issue, especially since the Gators have been getting so little from Werner since the first meeting. However, it's impossible to imagine that Alex Tyus, Macklin and Murphy will again combine for just six rebounds.

Florida coach Billy Donovan knows what the Gators are up against.

"We're playing one of the best teams in the league. Vanderbilt has had a tremendous season. They're playing very well on the road. They are a team with incredible depth at every position. The only area where may be not as deep is in the back court, but they have one of the best guards in our league and in the country in Beal. They are a very physical team, so there's a lot to get prepared and ready for."

Donovan said there are some problems with trying to play better inside against Vandy's variety of post players and forwards.

"Here's a thing that no one has talked about that's a huge key in the game. Ogilvy (195) has just broken the all-time record for free throw attempts in school history. On top of that they are averaging 35 free throws a game in league play. They're a team that is not concerned about fouls (because of their depth). They're just sending in guys who can play as hard as they can and then they come out. (Our) three guys are going to have to do a heck of a job against (their) seven. That's what it's coming down to."

Donovan was asked if he thought fans would be less than supportive of Werner on his Senior Day.

"I hope it would be good. He's a guy who has played his heart out and given me as a coach everything you could want. He has been a guy who maybe hasn't been the most athletic or most talented, but he's one of the smarter guys that I've coached. As fans you always feel good about a guy or a team that has given its best, and Dan is a guy who has always given his best. For that I'm very proud and I would hope the people who support us would be proud."

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Chandler Parsons needs 18 points to become the 17th player to reach that milestone under Donovan. Alex Tyus, who came up empty in Athens on Saturday still needs 49 points to reach that mark with the Gators assured of at least four more games.

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The last seven games has been the best stretch of Chandler Parsons' Gator career. During that time, Florida's junior forward has averaged 17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and four assists. He's made 57 percent of his shots from the field in that time.

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Kenny Boynton has had an excellent rookie year for the Gators, but there is one key area of his game that he really needs to improve and I'm not talking about three point shooting. The 6-2 guard is averaging less than three rebounds a game and in the last seven games he has a total of seven boards. In the same seven games Erving Walker has come up with 19 rebounds.


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