Vandy extends home winning win streak by beating Florida
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With just under 14 minutes left, things didn’t look good for Vanderbilt.
The Commodores were down by 11 points and Florida seemed poised for a road win.
But then the Memorial Magic energized Vanderbilt again as the Commodores rallied to their fifth straight home win with a 71-68 victory over the Gators on Saturday.
“Our crowd is spectacular,” Commodores coach Bryce Drew said. “They’re very knowledgeable. They know when to cheer, when not to cheer, when our team needs it and again, there’s no question our players feed off of that. They play with much more energy.”
Jeff Roberson scored 26 points and Riley LaChance added 21 for the Commodores (11-16, 5-9 Southeastern Conference), who won at Memorial Gym for the eighth time in the last 10 games.
“They’ve been phenomenal,” Drew said. “I keep saying it, but about the last month and a half they’ve played the best stretch in the two years that I’ve been here. They’ve carried the team different ways, different times.”
Both seniors are 1,000-point scorers for their careers.
Vanderbilt trailed 47-36 with 13:46 left before starting to chip away at Florida’s lead.
“We really just felt like we weren’t even playing well, like we were lucky to be down 11 at that point,” Roberson said. “We were just ready to play tough basketball we know we’re capable of. Once we did that, things started rolling our way.”
LaChance’s layup gave Vanderbilt a 69-68 lead with 1:53 remaining. Joe Toye, who scored 13 points, nailed two foul shots to finish the scoring with 11 seconds remaining.
Florida’s Egor Koulechov missed a chance to tie the score when his 3-point attempt bounced off the rim twice with six seconds left.
Keith Stone led Florida (17-10, 8-6) with 20 points and Koulechov added 14, including four 3-pointers. Jalen Hudson had 10 points or the Gators, who made only three turnovers and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds.
“They got wide-open looks they made us pay for,” Stone said of the Vanderbilt comeback. “First half, they got open looks, but they didn’t make them, but in the second half they made us pay. We’ll bounce back, I know this team.”
Powered by a 10-0 run midway through the first half, Florida took a 34-28 lead at the break.
Vanderbilt split two games with Florida, including an 81-74 loss in an SEC opener on Dec. 30.
Florida: The Gators lost their second straight three-point game, including a 72-69 overtime defeat to Georgia on Valentine’s Day.
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt hit 22 of 24 foul shots, including 15 of 16 in the second half. The Commodores outscored the Gators 22-7 at the free-throw line.
If Florida has one label, it’s inconsistency. “The only thing consistent about this team is our inconsistency,” Gators coach Mike White said. “Offensively, defensively, on the glass, free-throw line block-outs — you name it. That said, we played better than we did on Wednesday. We had three turnovers in a hostile environment. It got loud out there. Had some poise.”
SEC ROAD WOES
Florida entered the game as one of only three SEC teams with a winning road record (4-3). No. 10 Auburn and No. 18 Tennessee are the other two. The remaining 11 SEC teams were a combined 25-68, including Vanderbilt (0-9).
IN THE HOUSE
Golden State first-round pick Damian Jones and New York rookie Luke Kornet, two former Vanderbilt standouts, both attended the game.
Romeo Langford (New Albany, Indiana), the nation’s top shooting-guard prospect, was also at the game, according to The Tennessean newspaper. The 6-foot-5 senior has narrowed his choices to Vanderbilt, Indiana and Kansas.
Another former Vanderbilt star, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, was also at the game.
Florida: At No. 18 Tennessee on Wednesday
Vanderbilt: At LSU on Tuesday