Vanderbilt-Florida as it Happened

The sharp shooting Florida Gators downed a young Vanderbilt team, 94-69, at Memorial Gym on Sunday afternoon. Matt Zemek provides us with his observations as the game progressed.

18:11 left, first half: Vandy unable to make an entry pass against Florida's defense. The Dores have to find a way to get into the paint.

16:12: Wow. Festus Ezeli with two straight baskets in the low post. Can we see more of that?

First TV timeout score (15:45): Vanderbilt 9, Florida 7.

Observations: Keep pounding the ball inside. Do that with success, and everything changes for VU. Not much else needs to be said at this early stage of play.

14:10: George Drake getting another steal, run-out, and fast-break bucket... just like the Tennessee game last Tuesday.

13:40: Great angled lob into A.J. Ogilvy. Vandy's really dialed in right now. A solid effort after a shaky first minute.

12:40: In the past minute, the Dores lose their edge, and Florida pounces to erase the good work done by the home team in the previous few minutes.

11:23: Vandy losing Chandler Parsons and the Gators' three-point shooters.

10:55: Repeat, wash, rinse. You have to lock down a hot shooter when he gets going. VU unable to do so. Florida on a 16-2 run, good for a 23-15 lead.

9:56: Teams trading baskets. Once again, Vandy plays good defense when its offense is sluggish, and then plays good offense when its defense collapses. The two halves of this team can't excel at the same time, a persistent problem for Kevin Stallings.

Second TV timeout score (9:26): Florida 28, Vanderbilt 19.

Observations: Florida is shooting 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Unacceptable. Vandy has to work harder and find people at the defensive end. The offense, interestingly enough, has been more than adequate. A total of 19 points in half of a half represents a 76-point pace. The problem is that Vandy's not defending the way it should.

7:39: The Gators continue to rain down triples against a VU defense that's very slow in making its defensive rotations. Memorial Gym is understandably silent.

Third TV timeout score (7:25): Florida 35, Vanderbilt 22.

Observations: Maybe a 12:40 p.m. tip time didn't agree with this team. Whatever the reason, Vandy has to wake up and attack Florida's shooters with a lot more vigor.

5:50: Good grief. Two Commodores chase Parsons on the left wing, while UF's Walter Hodge finds that safe, isolated spot in the right corner, and nails a three off a simple skip pass. Vandy's not communicating on defense. It's a train wreck.

5:05: Another Parsons three. The Gators with 43 points in just under 15 minutes of hoops. They're headed for 100, and easily so.

3:55: Two more threes. The avalanche of long-distance shots continues to bury Vanderbilt.

Fourth TV timeout score (2:54): Florida 49, Vanderbilt 33.

Observations: When breakdowns are so fundamental in nature, what's Kevin Stallings going to say? VU lacks hunger, communication and quickness right now. The boys seem to be stunned by the Florida barrage, and are hanging their heads a little bit. No team with A-grade appetite will get smoked this thoroughly on defense. Hard as it may be to believe, defense has been this club's strong suit in 2009. When that goes, VU doesn't have much of a chance.

0:50: At least Bill Raftery is making this first half a little easier to bear. Always a delight to listen to "The Guvnah."

0:10: REBOUND THE BALL!

0:00: One more three--this one from Florida's Nick Calathes--punctuates a deflating and exasperating first half. It couldn't have been much worse. Only a solid half of offense prevented the margin from being even larger.

Halftime score: Florida 56 (!), Vanderbilt 37.

Observations: Vandy is shooting 48 percent, is 4-of-7 beyond the arc, and is even with the Gators on the boards (14-all). But since Florida is 12-of-18 from three-point range, no other statistics really matter. The long ball has enabled four Gators to score in double figures in one half of action. That tells you how much the VU defense has hemorrhaged.

19:03 left, second half: Vandy still late on defense and getting beaten to the punch.

18:29: Much like the Tennessee game, it seems that the Dores are making the motions of basketball players, but they're not feeling the game or exhibiting the passion that has to define a Division I-A ballclub. It's as though guys like Steve Tchiengang are sincerely trying to find the right spots on the floor and execute their halfcourt sets, but at the expense of any freedom or creativity. Unless you're running the Princeton offense, the game isn't--and shouldn't be--overly structured. Basketball is a game of fluid movements and rapid reactions, and the Dores appear to be paralyzed by a mindset that is saying, "If you perform action X in spot Y, a desired outcome will result." The sport doesn't work that way. You have to play an opponent and work to take that opponent's comfort zone away.

First TV timeout score (15:53): Florida 65, Vanderbilt 44.

Observations: The remarks about feeling the game and reacting spontaneously put things in perspective. This team, partly due to its loss of morale, is just not displaying good instincts. That has to change, period.

14:28: Ezeli with a rebound dunk to create the biggest crowd reaction of the day. That energy has to be there for 40 minutes, not just a handful of short sequences.

12:36: Vandy with no transition defense, and Parsons reels off two more threes to push the lead to 26 points. An attempt at a full-court press isn't offering much resistance, proof that the energy level hasn't increased at all.

12:02: Boos from the crowd as Florida gets another breakaway basket. That's a shame. It's not a good effort, but you don't boo college kids.

Second TV timeout score (11:44): Florida 79, Vanderbilt 53.

Observations: Just play solid halfcourt defense. Work. Fight. Sweat. Grunt. Dig in. Show some pride... and some fundamentals.

10:27: Chandler Parsons from the field so far: 9-of-10 overall, 7-of-8 from three-point range. Ridiculous.

9:25: The Gators get another dunk in transition, but the problem in that sequence was a lazy pass attempt by VU's Brad Tinsley. The casual one-handed pass, executed carelessly, led to the steal that, in turn, created the Florida fast break and the bucket. Plays like that have to be weeded out of the system. Stallings can't tolerate them.

Third TV timeout score (7:17): Florida 88, Vanderbilt 58.

Observations: Florida had mercy on Vandy in that last possession. UF's Dan Werner passed up a wide, wide, wide-open three from the left wing in order to run clock. On offense, Vandy players are shooting threes of dribbles, not catches. That's a no-no in this sport. I realize that these players are intelligent in a larger sense; they're Vandy men, after all. But the basketball IQ on this team has to improve. Florida does have more weapons than the Commodores, but VU shouldn't be getting beaten due to a lack of smarts or proper fundamentals. The game would have been a 15-point affair instead of this 30-point blowout.

2:58: Even when the Dores display good effort, they can't get the loose ball on defense, and Florida scores. Sigh.

Fourth TV timeout score (1:50): Florida 94, Vanderbilt 64.

Observations: Yes, it was true that Vandy needed to display better intelligence at the offensive end of the floor, after the loss to Tennessee. With that said, basketball is a game that demands energy above all else. Up or down, in good times and bad, a basketball team should ALWAYS be swarming at the defensive end of the floor. The results might not be there, but tenacity has to be. Otherwise, we might as well pack up and go home. One other thing: After that one chorus of boos, the crowd settled down and quietly accepted the loss. A nice closing note on an otherwise forgettable afternoon in Nashville.

Final score: Florida 94, Vanderbilt 69.  
 
 
 


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