Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators bounce back with wire-to-wire win over Vanderbilt

By OnlyGators.com Staff
February 24, 2024
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators bounce back with wire-to-wire win over Vanderbilt

Image Credit: UAA

Suffering a tough road defeat earlier in the week, the No. 24 Florida Gators returned to the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and successfully wiped that loss from their memory. The Gators prevailed 77-64 over the Vanderbilt Commodores, leading for the entire game on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Florida.

Though Florida was swept by Vanderbilt in Year 1 under head coach Todd Golden, it had otherwise dominated the former SEC East rival since 2019. Golden got the Gators back into the win column on Saturday, setting the stage for a major three-game stretch to close the season.

Let’s take a look at what went right as Florida improved to 19-8 (9-5 SEC) on the season.

It was over when … the Gators capped a 9-2 run with junior guard Will Richard’s fifth 3-pointer of the game to lead by 20 points with 2 minutes to play. The Commodores actually ended the game on a 7-0 run as Florida committed four late turnovers.

UF quickly pushed its lead to 19 points in the second half only to see VU cut it in half with an 8-0 run. Florida responded — as it has not recently in second halves — with a 10-2 stretch to take a game-high 22-point lead with just over 8 minutes remaining. However, Vanderbilt took advantage of a scoreless drought with a 9-0 run to pull within 13 points. The Gators only kept the pressure on from there.

First half focus: Florida started with a 12-4 lead and went up by as many as 17 points in the opening period thanks to a steady stream of scoring, though its rebounding effort left something to be desired given its size advantage against Vanderbilt. Still, other than a strange sequence in which the Gators turned the ball over on three straight possessions, they managed to amass a 15-point advantage at the break.

Exceptional efforts: Richard, junior G Walter Clayton Jr. and redshirt senior forward Tyrese Samuel led the team in both halves, combining to score 71.4% of Florida’s points. Richard hit 5 of 9 attempts from downtown for a team-high 21 points with four rebounds and three assists, while Clayton posted 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting with three boards and two dimes. Clayton had an opportunity to become the first Gators player to score 20+ points in five straight games since Dwayne Schintzius; unfortunately, he fell just short. Samuel posted 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting but was a dreadful 1 of 5 from the charity stripe with six rebounds and two blocks.

Odds & ends: Florida improved to 74-73 all-time against Vanderbilt with a 45-21 mark in Gainesville … this was the Gators’ first win over the ‘Dores under Golden, who went 0-2 in the series last season … UF is now 10-2 vs. VU since 2019 … the Gators led for 39:42 of the 40-minute game … Florida’s biggest advantage came in ball movement with 17 assists on 28 baskets … UF improved to 16-4 when leading at halftime and 17-3 when leading with 5 minutes left … the Gators are now 11-0 this season when shooting 45% or better, 15-1 when outshooting an opponent and 13-3 when outshooting an opponent from downtown … Saturday marked Florida’s first win under Golden when wearing orange uniforms (1-4) … sophomore center Micah Handlogten had an odd game, fouling out in just 14 minutes after taking one shot, grabbing three boards, dishing two dimes and blocking a shot.

What it means: The Gators have now won eight of their last 10 games, and more importantly, rallied twice in the second half to retake significant advantages after seeing their lead cut down. That was a significant change from recent contests in which Florida allowed scoring struggles to compound, blowing double-digit leads in numerous second halves this season. Ultimately, UF trounced a bad VU team, which — like taking care of your kids — is what it was supposed to do. More than anything, the Gators likely got the taste of the Alabama loss out of their mouths, which is important given the schedule to come. They also improved to 17-0 on the season against opponents from Quadrants 2-4, making them one of only five teams in the top 30 of the NET rankings with a perfect mark in that category.

What’s next? Florida will remain at home entering the week as it hoss Missouri on Wednesday. The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. ET and airl ive on SEC Network. The Gators will then play consecutive ranked opponents before visiting the Commodores to close the regular season.

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