No longer undefeated

Published: Saturday, January 17, 2004 at 10:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2004 at 10:40 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Matt Freije scored 23 points, Mario Moore added 21 and No. 23 Vanderbilt snapped a two-game losing skid by beating 15th-ranked Florida 86-72 Saturday night.

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Vanderbilt's Mario Moore gets foulded as he goes up to the basket against Florida's Anthony Roberson in the second half,.

(AP Photo/Neil Brake)

The Gators (11-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) came in with a six-game winning streak and were looking to start SEC play 3-0 for the third consecutive year. They had every reason to be confident, too, because they had won five straight against the Commodores.

But Vanderbilt (13-2, 2-2) apparently just needed to return home after being handed its first two losses of the season at Kentucky and Tennessee. The Commodores trailed 32-31 at halftime but never let the Gators get too comfortable in a gym where they had won three straight.

Moore made five of six 3-pointers and Vandy forced Florida into a season-high 24 turnovers, which the Commodores turned into easy layups and dunks. Vandy committed only five of its 13 turnovers in the second half and outshot the Gators 52.7 percent (29-of-55) to 51.2 percent (22-of-43).

Matt Walsh led the Gators with 16 points, followed by David Lee with 15.

Florida led 40-34 when Vandy took control for good with an 18-4 run started by Freije's three-point play.

Then junior Corey Smith, who finished with 14 points, took over for Vandy. He hit a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner, then stole the ball and passed to Moore, who was fouled and hit both free throws for a 45-44 lead — Vandy's first lead since 29-28 in the first half.

Smith came up with another steal, and Russell Lakey finished the fast break with a layup. Smith scored again with a three-point play, and Dawid Przybyszewski's one-hander capped the spurt for a 52-44 lead with 12:20 left. Smith also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Vanderbilt eventually led by as many as 19 points, 81-62, on a pair of free throws by Freije with 2:25 to go.

Freije, the SEC's preseason player of the year, set the tone early for Vanderbilt. He snapped out of his slump by scoring as many points in the first half (15) as he had in any of the previous six games. He scored seven in an 11-0 run, including a pair of 3s, and Moore's 3-pointer put Vanderbilt up 29-20 with 4:57 remaining in the first half.

The Gators rallied for a 32-31 lead with their own 11-0 spurt.

Anthony Roberson finished with 13 points for Florida, and Chris Richard had 12.

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