Commodores upset bid falls short 74-64

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA- Top ranked Florida overcame an eleven point first half deficit to defeat upset minded Vanderbilt 74-64 in Top 25 basketball action.

It was very much a tale of two halves. The 24th ranked Commodores (15-7, 5-3) frustrated the Gators with their hustle and surprisingly strong bench play in the opening stanza. Offensively, senior Derrick Byars proved difficult for the Florida defense as he scored 14 first half points on six of nine shooting from the field. Many of Byars baskets were scored with relative ease.

Forward Ross Neltner and guard Dan Cage picked up two early fouls each, which forced head coach Kevin Stallings to utilize his bench. Reserves Eric Metcalfe (8) and George Drake (2) provided the Commodores with ten points off the bench. The Dores hit 15 of 28 (54%) in the first half and should have scored more early when the Gators were trying to solve their own shooting woes.

Defensively, Metcalfe and Cage combined with Byars and Shan Foster with an aggressive effort in the paint against Florida's heralded trio of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer. Florida shot a horrendous 9 of 31 (29%) from the field in the half. Vanderbilt mixed a 2-3 zone with man-to-man pressure, which with the Gators cold first half shooting assured the Commodores of the early lead. In fact, Florida wasn't able to take the lead (18-16) until 9:43 in the first half. It didn't last long. Vanderbilt answered with a 10-0 run to go up 26-18. The Gators were held without a field goal for 4:20 in the half. The lead grew to twelve points to before Florida guard Lee Humphrey drilled a three-point shot with 42 seconds remaining in the half. Metcalfe hit a pair of foul shots and the Commodores took a 41-30 halftime lead.

Florida began the second half with a 13-0 run, buoyed by a pair of technical fouls on the Vanderbilt bench. Stallings was tagged with the first technical and assistant coach King Rice drew the second and was tossed out of the contest. Point guard Taurean Green hit three of the four shots and drilled a three point shot on the possession to quickly close the gap. The Gators took a 43-41 lead on Green's three point shot. Vanderbilt drew even at 45-45 moments later on Shan Foster's layup.

The Gators turned the advantage into a 26-6 run that the Commodores were unable to escape. The Southeastern Conference leaders in three point shooting, Vanderbilt could only muster 3 of 18 from beyond the arc in the game. As strong as the bench proved top be in the first half, Vanderbilt could add only two points in the second half.

Byars shot 9 of 18 (50%) for a game high 21 points. Foster led the Commodores with six rebounds. Despite playing only twenty-one minutes, Neltner added five rebounds.

Florida improved to (20-2, 7-0) on the season. Top Stories