The Florida Gators basketball team (13-7, 5-3 SEC) took a tough loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores — snapping a three-game winning streak — on Tuesday night in Nashville, Tennessee at 59-60.
It took a few minutes for points to get on the board, but Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones gave the Commodores its first lead of the game with a layup with 18:46 left in the half. From there, it looked as if it would be back-and-forth play for a close game as the Gators came back with a free throw from Justin Leon and a tip-in from Dorian Finney-Smith to get a 3-2 lead.
After the Gators gained the lead they lost a player as forward Justin Leon took an elbow to the chin, per ESPNU. That resulted in him missing the remainder of the game due to a possible concussion.
Vandy managed to pull away to a four-point lead that did not last long as KeVaughn Allen and Kasey Hill made back-to-back baskets to tie the game at seven. The Commodores tried again to break away, but Hill was determined to get the ball rolling on the offense and made another basket to get the game tied up at 9 with 11:51 to go in the half.
Little did the Gators know that basket would be their last until 8:13, allowing Vanderbilt to go on a 11-0 run ending at 20-9. An and-one from Chris Chiozza nipped the Commodores lead down from double-digits to eight, but the Gators just couldn’t work up momentum with Vandy’s relentless defense.
By the end of the first half Florida only scored five more points, ending with an 11-point deficit at 30-19. The Gators did not make a single three in the half, but not for a lack of trying. They shot 0-10 from downtown and just 21% from the floor.
In contrast, Vanderbilt shot 2-5 from the arc and shot 42% from the floor. These numbers just reiterate the importance of shot selection – an area that the Gators seemed to be improving in during their conference play.
Coming back into the second half, the Gators were ready to change their tune of missed shots and getting mauled over on defense by the Commodores. Florida gave up a free throw, but had back-to-back baskets from Dorian Finney-Smith and Chiozza to put them back in a 8-point deficit at 23-31.
Vanderbilt combatted Florida starting to get hot on offense and pulled away to as high as a 14-point lead at 28-42 with 14:24 to play. From there the Gators worked hard to cut down their lead, including a three-ball from Chiozza – the first out of 12 attempts in the game.
The Gators 12-2 run whittled the Commodores 13-point lead down to four after another shot from downtown, this time from Kasey Hill. The score sat at 44-40 with 9:49 to go and for the first time all night, it seemed like this could be anyone’s game.
The game went back and forth, with Vandy going on a little run to get as high as a 9-point lead over the Gators. However, Kasey Hill took matters into his own hands and put in another trey that cut their lead down to 6 twice, the second time ending at 54-48 with a layup with just 55 seconds on the clock.
Refusing to let the Commodores take them down without a fight, KeVaughn Allen shot a deep three followed by a jumper to get the Gators within 4 points at 57-53 with just 24 seconds to go.
Allen wasn’t ready to let go just yet as he managed to make yet another three bringing Florida within two points of Vanderbilt with just eight seconds left in the game. Hill ended up fouling Vandy and sent them to the charity stripe, which the Commodores took full advantage of and extended their lead back to 4 with seven seconds to play.
Just when it seemed that the clutch recovery game from Allen was over, he shot down another trey that brought the Gators within one point of the Commodores. Unfortunately for Florida, it was too little too late as time ran out leaving them a hard loss at 60-59 on the road in Nashville.
The Florida Gators men’s basketball team now looks on to preparing for No. 6 ranked West Virginia in their Big 12/SEC challenge game on Saturday at 12 p.m. back home in Gainesville, Florida.