UF fought the good fight Tuesday night before falling 64-60 to No. 19 Vanderbilt in the Gators' regular-season home finale before 11,607 in the O'Connell Center, missing a golden opportunity to make a statement to the NCAA selection committee.
The red-hot Commodores, winners of six of their last seven with the only loss a two-point defeat at the hands of No. 3 Kentucky, improved to 23-6 and 12-3 in SEC play, securing no worse than a runnerup conference finish while staying alive in the title hunt.
Florida slipped to 20-10 overall and 9-6 in league play heading into a regular-season ending contest at Kentucky Sunday.
Once again, UF was outgunned from 3-point range, as the Commodores knocked down 10-of-20 attempts from beyond the arc while the Gators struggled to a 2-for-13 effort.
"I think the difference in the game was we bobbled a lot of loose balls that were in play that they came up with that they capitalized on, and I also thought the 3-point line was huge," UF head coach Billy Donovan said. "When you see the disparity like we had where it was two for us and ten for them, I think it shows how hard our guys battled and fought defensively."
Vandy came into the game as the league's best shooting team and showed it early, hitting their first three shots from the field and their first four from 3-point range in establishing an early double-digit lead. UF was able to fight back and close to within three, 38-35, at the half thanks to scoring the last eight points before intermission to erase a 38-27 Commodores' lead with 2:42 left.
The second half was much lower scoring, with both teams struggling offensively. Vandy was able to build the lead back to nine, 46-37, in the first four minutes of the second half, but with freshman Kenny Boynton running the point, UF scored 10 unanswered points to take its first lead of the game, 47-46, with 11:57 remaining on a Boynton layup.
The Gators would go up 51-48 with 9:53 on a hoop from junior center Vernon Macklin, who scored 21 points and shared game-high rebounding honors with junior teammate Alex Tyus with nine apiece, but that would be Florida's last field goal of the game. The Gators would score just nine points the rest of the way, all from the foul line on 9-of-10 shooting.
The Commodores, meanwhile, got three huge treys in a span of 2 1/2 minutes from freshman John Jenkins, who led Vandy with 18 points and was 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. The last came with 3:08 to play and gave the 'Dores a 60-59 lead after Macklin had hit a pair of free throws to break a 57-all tie.
Macklin would hit 1-of-2 foul shots with 2:49 left to knot the score at 60-all, but 6-11 center A.J. Ogilvy, who had 16 points and eight rebounds, tipped in his own miss with 2:24 remaining to put Vandy up 62-60.
Junior point guard Erving Walker, who was held to just five points on 1-of-9 shooting, missed a short jumper with 54 seconds left, and Vandy was able to run the clock down to 24 seconds before senior guard Jermaine Beal turned the ball over.
Donovan called a timeout with 17 seconds left to set up a potential game-winner, and Boynton, who was coming off a career-best 6-of-9 shooting effort from beyond the arc in Saturday's two-point road loss to Georgia, got an open look from the right wing but missed, with Vandy's Steve Tchiengang corralling the rebound with 10 seconds to play.
Beal, who scored 11 points in the first half but had been held scoreless in the second, stepped up and drained both ends of a clutch 1-and-1 with six seconds left to seal the win.
UF shot just 36.5 percent from the field, but the backcourt of Boynton and Walker were the main culprits. They were a combined 3-for-24 shooting, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc, and were just 1-of-15 in the second half, a big reason UF shot just 26.7percent (8-of-30) after intermission. The rest of the team shot 51.2 percent (20-of-39) from the field for the contest, led by Macklin's 9-of-17 effort.
It was also a rough night for junior Chandler Parsons, who was hounded defensively all game by Vandy's Jeffery Taylor and finished with just three points and two rebounds despite playing 39 of the game's 40 minutes.
Werner, who was honored as UF's lone senior before the game, was solid in his final home contest, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds with two steals. Sophomore Ray Shipman, who scored the last five points of the first half for the Gators, combined with Werner to give UF 11 points off the bench in the opening half but only played one minute in the second half as the Gators got just four points from the bench following intermission.
Vandy Keeps the Gators on the Bubble
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