Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators season on brink after late collapse vs. Vanderbilt

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 11, 2023
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators season on brink after late collapse vs. Vanderbilt

Image Credit: UAA

A must-win game for Florida Gators basketball was indeed winnable until late when an offensive collapsed matched an early defensive implosion, leading to one of the program’s worst losses of the season. Florida fell 80-88 to the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday afternoon in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, suffering its first Quadrant 3 defeat of the campaign (10-1).

Not only that, the Gators saw their nine-game winning streak over the Commodores get snapped as Florida struggled to find the bottom of the net over two extended stretches in the second half. Missed baskets — and free throws — doomed the hosts, which looked to be on the verge of pulling away midway through the period only to stumble all the way down the stretch.

The Gators are now firmly off the NCAA Tournament bubble, and while they can win their way back into contention, proof of them having the capability to do so is lacking. Let’s once again take a look at everything that went wrong with some Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … Vanderbilt methodically put together a 10-2 run to lead Florida by nine with less than 3 minutes to play. From there, the teams mostly traded free throws. The Gators missed seven straight baskets over 6:08 down the stretch, not finding the bottom of the net until there were 46 seconds left in the game.

This despite Florida having a chance to go up six with 13 minutes remaining only for sophomore guard Will Richard to miss consecutive free throws. Vanderbilt responded by tying the game and soon using a 7-0 run to flip the lead going up four with 9 minutes left as UF went without a basket for 5:12.

First half focus: Vanderbilt opened draining its first four 3-pointers to lead by eight, while Florida struggled to score from long range starting 0 of 8 from downtown. The Gators eventually broke that drought as a trey from sophomore guard Kowacie Reeves fell with 4:53 until halftime. Reeves followed with a steal, fastbreak poster dunk (giving UF its first lead with 3:52 left) and a jumper as he scored seven straight points. It was the 3-point shooting that mattered most, though. VU drained 7 of 14 from deep, while UF hit just 1 of 10 in the period. Florida kept it close with a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton was phenomenal once again with 25 points and 11 rebounds for the 19th double-double of his UF career, tying him with Matt Bonner for fourth-most since 1996-97. Not only that, with a block early in the first half (and another later), he passed Al Horford for No. 3 on Florida’s career list with 191 swats. While Castleton will likely become the third Gators player to eclipse the 200 block mark, it will be difficult for him to surpass the top two swatters in program history.

Freshman G Riley Kugel finished with 18 points, setting a career-high scoring mark for a second straight game, while also grabbing four boards. Reeves found 14 points and appeared to break out of his recent funk but went just 2 of 8 from downtown, though he was the only Florida player to make a 3-pointer in the game. Combined, the trio made 23 baskets while the rest of the team found the bottom of the net just nine times. Gators other than Reeves went 0 of 12 from deep.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 73-72 all-time against Vanderbilt with a 45-21 record in the O’Dome … the Gators saw their nine-game winning streak over the ‘Dores broken … Florida lost for the first time in its last five home games … the Gators this season are now 2-9 when trailing at halftime and 0-11 when down with 5 minutes remaining … Florida missed its first eight and last eight 3-point attempts in the game … the Gators are now 1-10 when being outshot from the floor, 3-9 when being outshot from beyond the arc and 4-9 when their bench gets outscored … Florida scoring in the paint (58-26) and off the fastbreak (27-7) … UF had just 11 assists on 32 baskets, one of its worst percentages of the season

What it means: The Gators’ chances at advancing to the NCAA Tournament are now officially on the brink. In what was certainly a must-win game given it was at home against a middle-of-the-road opponent, Florida struggled mightily to defend the 3-pointer, was suddenly unable to score in the second half and failed to distribute the ball with any precision or consistency. The Gators allowed the Dores’ Liam Robbins to score a career-high 32 points while letting VU hit 12 of 23 triples. Meanwhile, UF went 2 of 20 from downtown with everyone other than Reeves going 0 of 12 from deep. Beyond that, Florida was horrendous from the charity stripe, hitting just 14 of 23 attempts in what had been a close game for the vast majority of the contest.

Taking its first Quadrant 3 loss at this juncture is a disastrous outcome for Florida, which entered 10-0 in the latter quadrants and 3-11 in the first two. The Gators’ resume got markedly worse Saturday, and unless they either win out through the regular season or drop just one more game and make some waves in the SEC Tournament, they will surely be looking at an NIT berth — at best.

What’s next? Florida will play consecutive home games for the first time in five weeks when it hosts Ole Miss on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on SEC Network.

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