Jones’ career night helps Vanderbilt beat Florida 87-74
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — If Vanderbilt makes the NCAA Tournament, the Commodores probably will be able to point to two circus shots against Florida.
Damian Jones scored a career-high 27 points, Jeff Roberson added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Vandy beat the Gators 87-74 Tuesday night for a resume-building road win.
“Damian was obviously spectacular,” Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. “Jeff Roberson was spectacular.”
Wade Baldwin IV chipped in 13 for Vanderbilt (17-11, 9-6 Southeastern Conference), which won for the fourth time in five games. Stalling’s team also snapped a four-game skid in Gainesville.
Although the Gators (17-11, 8-7) had no answer for Jones inside — he made 12 of 13 shots — the biggest difference may have been two amazing shots the Commodores made.
Trailing 37-35 in the final seconds of the first half, Florida looked like it would tie the game. But Schuyler Rimmer had an easy layup blocked, and Josh Henderson tossed in an 80-footer at the buzzer. Vandy hit one nearly as improbable in the second half, when Matthew Fisher-Davis banked in a contested 30-footer as the shot-clock expired.
“My goodness,” Florida coach Mike White said. “That’s eight points right there. Just huge plays. They made a lot of plays.”
For Henderson, a fifth-year senior averaging 11 minutes a game, it was just the second trey of his career. Teammates mobbed him near the free-throw line before both teams headed to the locker room.
“We had a couple of lucky plays and balls went in, but we always tell our team that when you’re the aggressor, it’s amazing how many times those balls go in,” Stallings said.
Justin Leon led Florida with 16 points, John Egbunu added 14, and Devin Robinson finished with 11.
Florida’s biggest problem was defense.
Vanderbilt shot 57.7 percent — by far the highest percentage the Gators have given up this season. The Commodores finished 10 of 20 from 3-point range.
“They were unbelievable,” White said. “I’m not going to sit up here and tell you that we were terrible defensively. We made mistakes, yeah. Was it our best defensive efforts? No. It needed to be one of our best defensive efforts.”
Despite Vandy’s gaudy offensive numbers, Florida still had plenty of chances.
Trailing 69-67, the Gators had at least four attempts to tie or take the lead. Eventually, the Commodores took over and put the game away with a 14-2 run.
“We just weren’t playing hard,” Robinson said. “It’s real surprising.”
Vanderbilt: Swept the season series. ... Now has four big wins: against Alabama, Texas A&M and two against Florida.
Florida: Guard Kasey Hill wore a plastic mask to protect his broken nose in the first half, but removed it at the break. ... Extended its 3-point streak to 824 games, which dates to 1992.
Florida’s top two scorers had off nights, something the Gators hardly could afford. Dorian Finney-Smith finished with seven points and 11 rebounds, but missed 6 of 7 shots. KeVaughn Allen missed all seven shots and finished with three points. “The two guys we count on scoring the most, obviously, had rough nights, ” White said. “Defense had a lot to do with it. They stayed extended on those guys, did a really good job on those guys.”
Vanderbilt moved into sole possession for fifth place in the SEC, but finishes the regular season against Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Winning those would be huge. Losing those would leave the Dores on the NCAA bubble. ... The Gators could be in trouble now, too, with remaining games against LSU, Kentucky and Missouri.
Vanderbilt hosts No. 16 Kentucky on Saturday.
Florida plays at LSU on Saturday.