Commodores escape from being bitten

Vanderbilt's #30 Damian Jones powers around Gators Center John Egbunu

Vanderbilt’s #30 Damian Jones powers around Gators Center John Egbunu (Photo: Mike Strasinger)

The Gators woke up and almost came back to bite Vandy in the rear end Tuesday night at Memorial Gym. The Commodores seemingly took for granted the 14-point lead they had imposed midway through the second half. Those Gators (13-7, 5-3) weren’t quite buried and freshman guard KeVaughn Allen made sure of it. He hit free throw after layup after three-pointer after three-pointer to keep his team in the game. Allen even hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give his team 59. Had Wade Baldwin IV not made two huge free throws for Vanderbilt with seven seconds left, that three-pointer by Allen would’ve tied or even won the game for Florida. Nevertheless, the ‘Dores hung on and Damian Jones had a massive impact. Jones scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, recording his fourth double-double this season and leading the Commodores to a 60-59 victory. This was a quality win that they desperately needed, being that it marked the Commodores’ first victory over a team with a Top 30 RPI. Florida came in tied for second in the SEC with an RPI of 22.

The Commodores (12-8, 4-4) won for the fourth time in five games. They snapped Florida’s three game win streak in the process. Baldwin IV led Vanderbilt with 24 points, scoring 10 of the Commodores’ final 14 to preserve the win. They would indeed need every one of those points. Florida led once, early at 3-2. They tied it up three times, the last at 9-9. Jones, then scored the next five points to put Vandy ahead to stay, as part of an 11-0 spurt. The Commodores led 30-19 at the half.

One unforeseen little tidbit unfortunately aided the Commodores in this unlikely domination. Florida lost junior forward Justin Leon to a concussion in the opening minutes of the game. With that, along with the Gators’ shooting woes, it looked like a done deal. Florida had numerous shooting droughts throughout, recording their worst shooting performance of the season. The Gators struggled big time, shooting a season low 33% from the field, missing their first 11 shots of the game. They would, however, wake up a tad in the second half, draining seven shots from downtown to inch their way back.

Vanderbilt got cold. Florida got hot. Chris Chiozza finally hit Florida’s first three with over 13 minutes left, starting a 12-2 run. Kasey Hill hit the second three to cap off the run shortly thereafter to pull within four, prompting a Vanderbilt timeout. The Gators, then missed their next 11 shots in a scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes. Vandy wasn’t much better, missing seven in a row. The Gators would manage only a layup in that stretch. Despite taking 26 more shots than Vanderbilt and hitting five of their last seven from the field, Florida’s volume shooting attack wouldn’t be enough. KeVaughn Allen finished with 16 points for the Gators. Hill finished with 16 as well. Dorian Finney-Smith added a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Chiozza had 10.

Vandy took advantage of the Gators’ foul trouble. They went 21 of 33 from the free throw line, compared to six of 10 for Florida.
Vanderbilt visits Texas on Saturday.