Gators cruise past Vanderbilt
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 3:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 3:37 p.m.
As the final seconds ticked, Florida walk-on guard Hudson Fricke dribbled the ball in
circles, waiting for the horn to sound.
This wasn't how many expected Florida's showdown with No. 14 Vanderbilt to end Sunday afternoon at the O'Connell Center. But in surreal fashion, the Gators rode the momentum of a 23-0 first-half run to beat the Commodores 86-64 and continue their strong start in Southeastern Conference play.
Florida (18-3, 5-1 SEC) made a statement by not only beating its first ranked opponent of the season, but by winning handily. As a result, the Gators will likely be ranked in the Top 25 for the second time this season when the polls come out today.
"I hope we're not ranked," said Florida freshman Chandler Parsons, who had four points, five rebounds and two assists in 19 valuable minutes off the bench. "I like being the unranked team, the underdog. It doesn't matter to us because we all know how good we can be if we work hard."
All five Florida starters reached double-figure scoring, led by junior guard Walter Hodge's 19 points. Freshman Florida guard Nick Calathes flirted with another triple-double, finishing with 15 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Dan Werner (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists), Marreese Speights (12 points, eight rebounds) and Jai Lucas (11 points, three assists) rounded out the balanced scoring.
"This may have been our best win and our best game," Calathes said. "Just playing well as a team, together, being unselfish."
Florida finished with 26 assists, its highest total in a game since dishing 27 assists against Florida A&M on Dec. 5.
"We were making the extra pass, looking for the open man," Werner said.
Florida overwhelmed Vanderbilt in the first 12 minutes, jumping to a 34-6 lead. The Gators made 10 of their first 18 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, was stuck in a two-for-15 shooting rut and turned the ball over six times during the stretch.
"The first 10 minutes was as good as we could have played," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "When you get up by that many points, you always get concerned. You want your guys to maintain their aggressiveness."
Lucas started the run with a 3-pointer to put Florida ahead 14-6, the first of four 3-pointers made during the 23-0 stretch. It ended with a Hodge layup on a back-door pass from Werner to make the score 34-6.
"We were not as emotionally ready to play as they were," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "They were faster to the ball and were the quicker and more aggressive team. That is a sure recipe for defeat on the road."
Strangely, Vanderbilt couldn't get SEC leading scorer Shan Foster involved in the offense. The senior forward attempted just two first-half shots and didn't score his first basket until the 16:20 mark in the second half.
Foster finished with seven points, 13.1 points below his average.
"The game got kind of up and down," Donovan said. "Sometimes you can get taken out of your game when you get taken out of your offense. Vanderbilt does such a good job getting the ball to Foster in their halfcourt sets. I thought we did a good job in our zone tracking him. I thought our team did a good job on him. I wouldn't say it was just one person."
Florida also did a solid job handling Vanderbilt freshman center A.J. Ogilvy, who was held to nine points and four rebounds before fouling out with 3:40 left in the game. Alex Gordon led the Commodores (17-3, 2-3) with 13 points. Vandy dropped to 0-3 on the road in the SEC.
"We turned the ball over and missed layups," Gordon said. "We didn't fight for that period."
Vanderbilt cut the Florida lead to 46-31 at halftime, but the Gators maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the game. As a result, Florida goes into a five-day break still in first in the SEC East and with the confidence of a potential national ranking.
"It gives us a lot of national attention," Calathes said. "But I don't think we can let this go to our head. We have to continue to work hard, do the little things."
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Comments are currently unavailable on this article