The Commodores pounded the ball inside on Florida in the second half to come away with a 95-87 victory in an SEC opener. Vandy outscored the Gators 40-22 in the paint to make up for the 39-21 advantage the visitors had in three-point scoring.
"We were a force inside and, obviously, our ability to get the ball inside and draw some fouls was good," coach Kevin Stallings said. "Both teams played really well, particularly offensively."
The Commodores also enjoyed a 32-29 advantage in rebounding, thanks to the 18 boards forward Andre Walker and center A.J. Ogilvy combined for. Walker had 10 by himself, the second time this season he has been in double digits.
"His offense is secondary," Stallings said of Walker, "and he's really big on getting us the ball. He's a glue guy. He's an excellent defender and rebounder and a really good passer."
Said guard Jermaine Beal: "I think Andre was the man today. Every time I got trapped, he was really there to bail me out."
The victory was a key one for the Commodores, who came into the season looking to battle the Gators for one of the top three spots in the SEC's Eastern Division.
They have two road games coming up, starting with a trip to Alabama. That is followed by a match against division rival South Carolina in Columbia.
--Andre Walker is averaging only 6.6 points per game for Vanderbilt, but he has added a toughness to the front line for the Commodores. He is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game and has 17 steals, matching Jeffery Taylor for the team lead, and 14 blocked shots, third most on the team. He tied a career-high with his three assists against Florida.
"I love to pass the ball," he said afterward.
--C Festus Ezeli, a 6-11 sophomore from Nigeria who redshirted in the 2007-08 campaign, is becoming more and more of a force as the season wears on. He is averaging just under seven points and four rebounds over his last seven outings while going 24-of-49 from the field.
ON THE SPOT: The Commodores made 17 turnovers against Florida, three more than the Gators were charged with. For the season, Vandy has made 215 turnovers to their opponents' 216.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It raises the confidence level of everyone, but when your marquee guys start to play big, it gets everyone going." -- Coach Kevin Stallings, on the impact C A.J. Ogilvy (24 points, eight rebounds, two blocks) had in the win over Florida.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Vanderbilt finished a six-game homestand coming off a loss to Western Kentucky in Nashville's Sommet Center with a 6-0 record. The Commodores now have won 14 consecutive games in Memorial Gym, including all nine games played on campus this season to stretch their record to 12-3.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Andre Walker, C A.J. Ogilvy, G/F Jeffery Taylor, G Brad Tinsley, G Jermaine Beal. Key Subs -- F Darshawn McClellan, G/F Steve Tchiengang, G/F Lance Goulbourne, G John Jenkins.
Vanderbilt 82, Southern Mississippi 46
Vanderbilt 73, Middle Tennessee State 53
Vanderblt 95, Florida 87
at Alabama, Wednesday, Jan. 13.
at South Carolina, Saturday, Jan. 16.
vs. Auburn, Saturday, Jan. 23.
at Tennessee, Wednesday, Jan. 27.
at Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 30.
IN FOCUS: The Commodores will be going on the road for the first time since Dec. 8 when they visit Tuscaloosa. It will be a challenge to see if they can maintain their shooting pace away from Memorial Gym.
--G Jermaine Beal scored a season-high 22 points against Florida, the first time this season he has been over the 20-point mark. His previous season high was 18 against Arizona in late November.
--Freshman G John Jenkins was 3-of-7 on three-pointers against Florida, making him 37-of-78 (47.4 percent) for the season. He is averaging 11.0 ppg.