Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators edge Vanderbilt late to open SEC Tournament

By Adam Silverstein
March 11, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators edge Vanderbilt late to open SEC Tournament

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Another Florida Gators basketball game that was far closer than it should have been ended on a positive note this time with No. 5-seed Florida defeating the No. 12-seed Vanderbilt Commodores 69-63 to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2021 SEC Tournament. UF will not get much rest as it suits up again in just 24 hours.

The Gators led by double digits out of halftime but lost their advantage once again in the second half as the Commodores were unconscious from long range for an extended period. Eventually, Florida decided to play some defense and Vanderbilt started missing shots, leading to the higher seed pulling away in the final minute of the game.

What went down as the Gators opened 2021 SEC Tournament play? Keep on reading for Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … sophomore point guard Tre Mann capitalized on two Florida offensive rebounds to hit a jumper with 53 seconds remaining. The basket put the Gators ahead three, and Mann added a free throw moments later to make it a two-score game in the waning seconds.

Florida and Vanderbilt were even through most of the first half, but the Gators ended the opening period on an extended 12-2 stretch to take a 34-22 lead into the break. However, the Commodores completely erased their deficit in the second half, using an 11-0 run to lead 55-54 with 8:33 to play. UF eventually regained the lead at the line and held it for the final 7:13 of the game as both teams struggled to find the bottom of the hoop down the stretch.

Exceptional efforts: Mann was outstanding, scoring a team-high 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting. He added seven rebounds and six assists in a team-high 32 minutes. No one was more consistent in the game, and without Mann, Florida would have struggled not only to score but just move the ball offensively. Junior guard Noah Locke scored 13 points but once again went cold in the second half, while junior PG Tyree Appleby posted 12 points and four dimes.

Odds and ends: Florida improved to 71-71 all-time against Vanderbilt with seven straight wins in the series and a 7-3 mark in SEC Tournament play … the Gators are now 46-50 in the event and 4-4 under head coach Mike White … UF has advanced to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals for the 12th straight season … Locke is the only player with prior SEC Tournament experience playing in this year’s event … this was Florida’s first win this season scoring 69 points or fewer (1-5) … the Gators improved to 8-1 when allowing 69 points or fewer

What it means: Not much. Beating a team that entered 3-13 in SEC play should not have been this difficult. The hope is that Florida learned some lessons in the game, but there’s no avoiding the fact that the team once again blew a massive lead out of halftime and was in a tight game that should have been a blowout. The Gators’ defense — especially along the perimeter — was significantly lacking, and that will cost them dearly later in this postseason if they are not careful.

What’s next? Florida will face No. 4-seed Tennessee on Friday at 2:25 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Gators lost their double bye after falling to the Volunteers in their regular-season finale, and now the rivals will square off for the second time in three games. UF routed UT 75-49 back on Jan. 19, but saw the tide turned on it on March 7 with a 65-54 loss. The teams have not played in this event since 2014; Florida is 4-0 vs. Tennessee in the SEC Tournament since 1988 and 4-4 all-time dating back to 1941.

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