Florida falls short at Vanderbilt


Vanderbilt guard Kedren Johnson moves the ball against Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 12:50 a.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The effort was there for Florida in a critical game Tuesday night at Vanderbilt.

Facts

THREE QUESTIONS

1.Can Kenny Boynton stay with John Jenkins defensively and alter his shots?
Boynton and the rest of the Gators failed to do a good enough job on Jenkins. The Vandy guard scored 22 points, two points above his season average, and finished 7 of 10 from the floor and 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

2. Can the Gators be as effective generating points off the press as they were in their first meeting with Vanderbilt?
Again, Florida's press was able to create havoc. The Gators scored 17 points off 12 Vanderbilt turnovers. Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin provided a spark with two steals off the press.

3. Can Patric Young stay out of foul trouble and be productive for the Gators inside?
Young was able to stay on the floor, but wasn't productive enough inside for the Gators. He finished with four points and eight rebounds, but missed a key putback in the closing minutes that could have kept the Gators in the game. He had no fouls in the first half and just three for the game. Defensively, Young did a good job on Festus Ezeli, holding him to just 11 points.

But in the Southeastern Conference, they don't give you points for just trying hard. Poor shot selection down the stretch doomed the No. 13 Gators in a 77-67 loss to Vanderbilt before 14,316 at Memorial Gym.

Florida (22-8, 10-5 SEC) fell into a second-place tie in the SEC with Vanderbilt (21-9, 10-5 SEC) and failed in a chance to secure the number two overall seed in the SEC Tournament.

The Gators can still get the number two overall seed in the tournament, but it won't be easy. First, Florida needs Vanderbilt to lose in its season finale at Tennessee. Then, the Gators must end their two-game losing streak against No. 1 Kentucky in their regular season finale Sunday afternoon at the O'Connell Center.




Bradley Beal led Florida with 16 points. Erving Walker added 15 points and three assists, and Kenny Boynton had 11 points.

But Florida had no answers to stop Vanderbilt's John Jenkins. The junior guard finished with 22 points, two points above his average. Jenkins went 7 of 10 from the floor and 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

Vanderbilt shot 12 of 24 (50 percent) from 3-point range, while Florida was 8 of 24 (33 percent).

“I thought we had a couple of breakdowns where in the zone a couple of times we let Jenkins get loose which is really uncalled for because it's not hard to locate where he's at,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “And then there was a couple of plays where there were offensive rebounds thrown back out to him. I thought our rebounding to start the second half really, really hurt us.”

Said Beal: “That was just our stupidity. Sometimes we got too caught up in watching the ball instead of finding Jenkins and finding Taylor and guys that were just knocking down 3s. It was just our lack of awareness. We have to be aware on the court and know where guys are.”

The Gators trailed by nine points early in the second half, but battled back, generating points off its press. Wilbekin had two steals on the press, leading to layups from Boynton and Beal. Beal's layup cut Vandy's lead to 45-43.

Down 49-45, the Gators took their first lead of the game with a quick 5-0 run. Boynton hit a 3-pointer, and Casey Prather followed with a breakaway dunk that put Florida up 50-49 with 10:23 remaining.

But the Gators couldn't hold the positive momentum down the stretch. After a Beal 3-pointer cut Vanderbilt's lead to 62-61, the Commodores went on a 6-0 run, extending their lead to 68-61 with 4:31 left.

Boynton then hit a 3-pointer to cut Vanderbilt's lead to 68-64 with 4:00 left. But the Gators managed just three points and didn't hit a field goal the rest of the game.

“I believe their zone really affected us because we were settling for a lot of 3s instead of dribble and penetrate,” Beal said. “We were settling for too many 3s and sometimes they were contested and too early in the shot clock.”

Donovan said he felt the Gators got good enough looks for shots against the zone.

“I thought Brad had a couple of good ones. I thought Kenny Boynton had a couple of good ones,” Donovan said.

Another key play came when Patric Young failed to convert a layup on a putback that could have cut Vanderbilt's lead to 69-66. Then, Young fouled Vanderbilt senior point guard Brad Tinsley with a bear hug while trying to go for a loose ball. With Florida over the limit, Tinsley made both free throws, a four-point swing that put the Commodores up 71-64.

Vanderbilt honored its seniors shortly before the opening tip, which included starters Festus Ezeli, Lance Goulbourne, Jeffery Taylor and Tinsley. The Commodores carried that emotion to the start of the game. Vanderbilt jumped to a quick 7-0 lead on a pair of inside baskets from Goulbourne and Ezeli, followed by a 3-pointer from Taylor.

“It's never good to get down early,” Walker said. “They just made some big plays at the end. Jenkins made some big 3s, and Taylor made some big plays. They just made more plays at the end than we did.”

The Commodores extended their lead to 19-7 on another inside bucket from Ezeli. But Florida hung around, playing hard enough on the defensive end to keep from getting blown out. Down 25-16, Walker posted his first career four-point play, nailing a 3-pointer off a pick from Young as he was fouled.

Walker and Young continued to play a two-man game, with Walker scoring a pair of driving baskets off Young picks to cut Vanderbilt's lead to 25-24.

After a Jenkins basket in transition, Scottie Wilbekin then tied the score at 27 with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:11 left. But Taylor answered with a 3-pointer in transition to put Vanderbilt up 30-27 at halftime.

Florida shot 42.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent (3 of 7) from 3-point range. But the Gators had just one assist to six turnovers.

“We just kept playing basketball,” Beal said. “We stayed composed and then we were just making runs because we knew we were going to make a run as well as they were.”

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