The Florida Gators basketball team has taken Gator Nation on a roller coaster ride of a season, and it took another twist on Tuesday night in Nashville versus the Vanderbilt Commodores. In fact the game itself, which saw Florida lose 60-59, was filled with its own set of twists and turns.
The Gators came riding in hot off a three game winning streak; much like the slow ascent that builds the excitement and anticipation before dropping the cars down a steep decline and then whipping back around like a snake without a head before beginning it’s next series of moves on the track.
The first feeling of a drop came when Florida lost Justin Leon after only 3 minutes of playing time from the forward. He has been averaging 8.6 points per game during SEC play, shooting .600 while averaging 19.3 minutes. After taking an inadvertent elbow to the face, Leon left the game and didn’t return, instead undergoing concussion protocol.
In many of the categories, Florida led, such as the bench outscoring Vandy’s 18-0, finishing with two more rebounds and forcing six more turnovers. The Gators also took 26 more shots than the Dores did—yes 26—and finished making five more field goals including four more from downtown. But Vanderbilt dominated in the one area that the Gators have continued to struggle…free throws.
Feeling the blessing of home court advantage, Vandy went to the charity stripe 23 more times than their opponent, and finished 21-33 there—yet another twist on the stat sheet matchup.
A bad night at the line, a basket that seemed to have a top on it and foul trouble for the bigs all pushed the Gators down a track that seemed to have no upward tilt. In the home stretch of the second half though, guards Chris Chiozza, Kasey Hill and KeVaughn Allen along with forward Dorian Finney-Smith stepped up to push Florida back up the slope and close in on the Dores. All four of those guys finished with double digits, and Doe-Doe continued his streak of double doubles, leaving Nashville with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
And just as it seemed Florida could make one last push with Allen even nailing a last second heave, the clock proved too much as it left Mike White’s crew with no time left and a one point loss.
This has been par for the course though with this Florida Gators basketball team as the 2015-2016 season has progressed. As soon as a couple of wins seem to be putting them at the top, there comes a drastic fall. There is no plateau, just a pendulum swing that can cause whiplash for those not accustomed to watching. The Gators spent the last two weeks learning how to win, and proved they had picked up on the lesson with their 95-63 dismantling of the Auburn Tigers this past Saturday. Now they must lean on things they have learned in the past, which is bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss. Luckily for Gator Nation and this team, they have already gritted through these types of drops and twist already and know how to hold on through it all.
The Florida Gators basketball team will buckle up for what promises to be another tense ride on Saturday January 30 with a matchup against No. 9 West Virginia as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tip off is set for noon on ESPN and as always, join GatorCountry.com today for full coverage and analysis.