Florida's (20-9) win set up a Gators-Wildcats matchup in the nationally televised tournament championship game on Sunday at noon CT (CBS). Kentucky outlasted South Carolina, 78-63, in Saturday's other semifinal game.
Vanderbilt (21-9) returns to Nasvhille confidently awaiting Sunday's nationally televised NCAA selection show. The Commodores had already solidified their standing earlier in the week with wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the tournament's first two rounds.
On this afternoon, however, Vanderbilt had no answer for Roberson, who rained in a career high 35 points on an astonishing 12-of-15 shooting afternoon, including 7-of-8 on 3-pointers. Vanderbilt tried a variety of junk defenses to slow him down, but Roberson either merely took another step back and fired-- or passed off to Walsh, who also eventually found the range from outside.
"We'd have tried a triangle-and-three if we'd thought it would have worked," cracked Kevin Stallings. "Nothing we tried worked.
"We tried backing up in our man and all picking it up... zoning... the box-and-one... they just made every play. We could never get them stopped defensively to get them out of rhythm."
The fatigue of playing its third game in three days may have finally set in for Vanderbilt in the second half, but Stallings refused to use that as an excuse.
"Especially in the second half, we got our butts whipped, and we give full credit to Florida for that," Stallings said. "We thought we could win the game and we didn't. We'll try to get better at the things that didn't go so well."
The game opened at a torrid pace, as both teams came out firing 3-pointers. Mario Moore kept Vandy in the game by hitting four of his first five attempts; but Roberson did him one better by hitting six of eight shots, including three 3-pointers, for 15 first half points. Florida shot 55.6 percent in the first half, to Vandy's 42.4 percent.
The lead exchanged hands six times in the first half, with neither team leading by more than five points. Przybyszewski scored five straight points, on a tomahawk dunk and a 3-pointer, to put Vandy up 36-35; but the Gators emerged with a 40-38 halftime lead.
But the Commodores cooled off to 31 percent shooting in the second half, while Florida warmed up to 71 percent-- and that was pretty much that. Walsh, who found his shot after a 1-for-15 night the previous night against Alabama, finished with 20 points, while Adrian Moss added 13.
For the third straight game Matt Freije never really found his shooting rhythm. After a 4-for-12 shooting night, Freije finished the tournament shooting only 34 percent in the three games. He was confident, however, that his stroke would return in time for the NCAA Tournament.
"I do have to play well," he said. "I need to take it as a challenge and just play well and hopefully play the best basketball I've ever played in a Vanderbilt uniform the next couple of weeks."
Mario Moore led Vandy with 16 points, while Matt Freije added 11 and Pryzybyszewski 10. The Commodores shot a meager 36.8 percent. On the good side, Vandy out-rebounded the Gators 34-30, including 17 offensive rebounds, and committed only three turnovers.
"Our seniors have helped us (down the stretch)," Stallings said. "The emergence of Dawid has helped us offensively. Certainly Julian [Terrell's] play in this tournament was a big thing for us.
"We've had great play from our seniors, and great play from our supporting cast."
GAME NOTES: Vanderbilt has still never played in the SEC Tournament finals since the tournament was reinstated in 1979, and is the only one of the twelve SEC schools with that distinction.