There are countless words that can be used to describe the Florida Gators 67-61 loss to Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, but none of them are good and the stats paint the full ugly picture.
Coming into the matchup in Nashville, the Gators (12-10/5-4 SEC) had won their last two SEC games by a combined three points; whereas Vanderbilt (12-10/2-7 SEC) was riding a painful seven game losing streak.
Michael Frazier had gone two games without a three after setting a school record with 41 straight.
And then there was the streak to start this game. The Commodores opened play with a 15-0 run.
It took Alex Murphy coming off the bench to get things going for the Gators. Murphy scored two quick baskets to make it 15-4 and then a Chris Chiozza steal resulted in an Eli Carter layup to bring the Gators within nine. This started a 10-0 run by Florida, largely due to the bench.
At one point during the first half, Florida’s bench was actually outscoring starters 12-2.
However, most of the first half play-by-play reads “misses; fouls; turnover”. It wasn’t until there was 3:50 left in the first half that the Gators found more of an offensive rhythm at the hands of Michael Frazier II.
Frazier had not hit a three since 3:29 left in the loss versus Ole Miss. Now with 3:50 left in the first half versus Vandy, Frazier was able to sink the shot from downtown. He then finished out the Gators scoring for the half with a layup and two free throws to send Florida to the locker room with an eight-point deficit and a frustrated Billy Donovan.
After a half that saw the offense fumble through possessions, GatorNetwork radio announcer Mark Wise asked Donovan what would help UF.
Donovan’s response-“Our point guards knowing our offense would be a good start.”
Frazier got it going in the second half, opening with a three. Jacob Kurtz followed with a layup and one, and the Gators had made it a three-point game, 90 seconds in.
Vanderbilt immediately answered though, and thus was the case for much of the second half.
It played out much like the old adage, “anything you can do, I can do better.”
For every Gator basket, the Dores had one to answer.
Florida’s only real chance to win was to take out LaChance, and that didn’t happen.
Vanderbilt’s freshman guard was a terror to the Gators defense, throwing his generously given media guide frame of 6’2”, 194 lbs. at whatever the Gators threw at him.
LaChance finished with 15 points (4-7 from three).
Michael Frazier led all scorers with 21, but it wasn’t enough as Vanderbilt outscored him in free throws alone.
In fact, free throws became one of the stories of the game.
Michael Frazier came into the game having hit 26 straight (including two that won the game versus Arkansas) and he finished the night extending his streak to 31.
Although Florida finished with a better free throw percentage than Vandy, the sheer numbers for the Dores were enough to do damage. Vanderbilt went to the charity stripe 42 times, sinking 29, as opposed to the Gators who went 13-16 from the line.
The Gators now must return to Gainesville, tied for 8th in the SEC with Georgia. They have three full days to prepare for the mammoth of the league, and all of college basketball really, with undefeated Kentucky. Florida snapped Vanderbilt’s losing streak, now they hope to snap the Wildcats winning streak as they fight to keep their postseason chances alive.
Tip off versus Kentucky is 9pm on ESPN. College Gameday will be at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for the matchup.