The Florida Gators (14-15, 7-9 SEC) were defeated by the Vanderbilt Commodores (16-13, 9-7 SEC) Saturday evening in Nashville 88-72. Riley Kugel’s game-high 20 points weren’t enough to lead Florida over Vanderbilt. Liam Robbins led the Commodores with 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and six blocks.
This was the third straight loss for the Gators after their star big man, Colin Castleton, broke his hand in their victory over Ole Miss on Feb. 15.
On the other hand, Vanderbilt has been red-hot as they have now won six of their last seven games.
Commodores Lead at Halftime
Both teams were on fire from the floor early. The big men traded buckets in the first couple possessions as Florida’s Jason Jitoboh nailed a turnaround jumper from the low post to open the scoring. Robbins responded on the inside with a reverse layup to tie the game.
The Gators’ freshman forward, Kugel, then hit a mid-range jumper as he was falling down. That was answered by a Colin Smith jump shot for the Commodores.
The first media timeout wasn’t called until almost six minutes were played. At this timeout, Vanderbilt led 13-12.
After the timeout, the Commodores stayed hot while the Gators cooled down a bit. Florida missed seven of eight shots out of the break. Robbins scored five straight to take an eight-point advantage.
The rivals went back-and-forth the in the next five minutes as Myles Stude lit up from beyond the arc. With 7:01 to play in the first, the Commodores led 33-25.
With about four and a half to play, Florida’s Kyle Lofton hit two free throws to cap off seven straight points for him. In the next six minutes, Vanderbilt went on a 9-1 run that was helped by 3-pointers from Smith and Tyrin Lawrence.
With 11 seconds remaining in the half, Ezra Manjon made a layup for the Commodores to give them their largest lead of the first at 13. Lofton ran down the floor and drained a long-range bucket from the left wing at the buzzer. He and Kugel both had 13 points at halftime.
At the end of the first half, Vanderbilt was up 46-36.
The Commodores shot 53% from the field in the first, including 7-16 from downtown. The Gators had six threes of their own, but even after their great start on offense, they shot just 38% from the floor.
Florida Can’t Mount Comeback
The Lofton 3-pointer to end the first half did not give Florida too much momentum at the start of the second. In the first five minutes out of the locker room, the Gators scored just four points.
Their defense didn’t come out too hot either as Vanderbilt was up 56-40 with just under 15 minutes to play.
Florida found the touch on the offensive end, but could not cut the advantage too much in the next seven minutes. After scoring just two points in the first half, Will Richard scored seven straight for the Gators on two layups and a bomb from 3-point range. However, the Commodores had an answer to every Gator score as with about eight minutes left, they had an 11-point lead.
With 5:04 to go, Florida was able to trim the lead to single digits on a big slam from Alex Fudge. A minute later, Robbins and Trey Thomas drained back-to-back threes for Vanderbilt that put the dagger in the Gators’ comeback hopes.
After the Fudge dunk, Vanderbilt outscored Florida 15-8 to finish off their victory with a final score of 88-72.
The Gators will be back in action Tuesday night in Athens as they go up against the Georgia Bulldogs (16-13, 6-10 SEC). Florida and Georgia will both be going into this game on three-game losing streaks. In the last matchup between these two on Jan. 7, the Gators won 82-75 in the O’dome. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.