One of the marks of a good basketball team is one that can take care of business when they need to by beating a team they should be able to handle on paper and the Gators did just that on Wednesday night in Nashville by easily dispatching of the Vanderbilt Commodores 71-55. Down future NBA lottery pick Darius Garland the Commodores are winless in the SEC and the Gators went on the road and took care of them easily, leading the entire way and never letting the home squad back into the game. By beating Vanderbilt the Gators are now on a 5-game winning streak, their longest run of the season and one that has a great chance to be extended on Saturday when the Gators take on a struggling Georgia team. This wasn’t a major resume victory for the Gators but it’s a nice road win that should help their ever-increasing standing in the metrics.
Memorial Gym has been a house of horrors for the Gators as we all know and no matter much better Florida is supposed to be than Vanderbilt they usually head to Nashville and struggle. That totally changed Wednesday as not only did the Gators win but they did it by doing what is occasionally impossible there—knocking down jump shots. The obscure shooting backdrop and unique theatre lighting make it a difficult place to shoot and though it’s been an issue for the last decade they made it look easy Wednesday by shooting 48% from the field and 40% from three. They even shot 93% from the free throw line if you want to know how much they were making Memorial Gym feel like home. Getting a win in one of the toughest gyms in the league should feel great and it should give the Gators some confidence moving forward.
Leading The Way
Florida had some efficient offensive leaders with Andrew Nembhard going 7-8 from the field for 19 points while Kevarrius Hayes showed perfection going 5-5 from the field and 4-4 from the charity stripe for 14 points. Nembhard’s touch on the perimeter was on display with three 3-pointers and a couple mid-range jump shots while Hayes did his work down low with a series of crafty layups around the rim. He even had a mid-range jump shot of his own which is an extremely rare sight but it showed just how much he was feeling it on Wednesday. Jalen Hudson, though not quite as efficient as his buddies going 5-13, finished with 17 valuable points as well.
Whenever you get to play the same team twice in the SEC it’s interesting to see what adjustments are made and one of the big ones for Florida was the way they were able to limit Aaron Nesmith to 6 points on 2-10 shooting with 4 turnovers after he cooked the Gators in the first matchup with 26 points and 2 assists. They did a great job of cutting off his dribble penetration which was a major issue in the game in Gainesville and instead forcing the ball out of his hands. With Nesmith out of rhythm the Commodores didn’t have enough offensive creation and it allowed the Gators to hold them to 41.2% shooting with 15 turnovers.
The Gators looked like a confident team tonight and took care of business against a team they needed to beat easily. After a lackluster performance against Missouri this was a great bounce back game and it was good to see the team play with some confidence. Winning handedly is a good way to extend a winning steak to five games and they should be a focused group taking on Georgia Saturday.