Florida basketball team heads to Vanderbilt, looks to make it two in a row on the road

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Fresh off of a 12-point victory at Georgia, the SEC’s lowest-ranked team, the Florida men’s basketball team is on the road for the final time in the 2021-22 regular season to take on Vanderbilt on Tuesday in Nashville, with tip-off set for 8:30 p.m. 

The Gators (18-11, 8-8 SEC) hit four 3-pointers out of the gate against the Bulldogs — a promising start in a hostile environment that helped coach Mike White’s team avoid an offensive letdown. 

They’ll need a similar showing against the Commodores (14-14, 6-10). 

“I think on the road if you can get a confidence boost of hitting some shots, it can really help you,” White said, “and of course that’s what you hope you fall into. Maybe we can get out in transition, create a couple turnovers in Nashville and maybe we can execute well in the half court against a very good defense, but we’re going to have to hit some jumpshots, it’s part of the game.”

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Can Phlandrous Fleming repeat his performance in Georgia?

With a 27-point performance in his hometown of Athens, Georgia, Phlandrous Fleming Jr. proved he’s capable of being a go-to scorer for the Gators alongside fellow guard Tyree Appleby and forward Colin Castleton. 

It marked the highest scoring game of his UF career, with his previous high coming in a 21-point showing on Dec. 22, 2021, in Florida’s 87-62 win over Stony Brook. 

The environment may have had a bit to do with it. Fleming had more than 50 supporters waiting in the tunnel after the win over Georgia, and he made sure they got their money’s worth. 

“I don’t know how many people were in there, but it reminded me of a Mardi Gras parade back in high school in New Orleans,” White said. “It was rocking, and when Phlan finally got on the bus — it shows you what a good dude he is, and how many people love him, because it was loud as heck. It was a cool moment for him and his family.”

Rather than raise the bar when it comes to the expectations for Fleming, the Gators aren’t putting any additional pressure on him to perform, although it certainly wouldn’t be unwelcome. 

“If he has the same game, so be it, it would be terrific, of course. I’ve got confidence he’s going to play well,” White said of Fleming. “He’s always going to compete at a high level, he’s always going to compete with toughness. He got in a really good rhythm offensively, and he’s worked really hard on his stroke all year.”

Averaging nearly 11 points per contest in his inaugural season of SEC basketball, Fleming has provided the Gators with necessary scoring at multiple stretches this season, though his assignment on the other end Tuesday is in a category of his own. 

Considering he’s averaging 20.2 points per game heading into Tuesday night’s contest, Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. is on pace to finish with an average of 20 points or more for the second consecutive season. Pippen, barring a cold streak in the final week, would be the first SEC men’s basketball player to accomplish the feat since LSU’s Ronnie Henderson posted averages of 23.3 and 21.8 points during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, respectively. 

In the Commodores’ five-point loss Saturday at Mississippi State, Pippen scored 32 points on 10-of-16 shooting. 

Having game-planned for Pippen throughout his collegiate career, White said Pippen’s accomplishments are clearly impressive, though they aren’t necessarily surprising.

If they hope to slow or limit Pippen, the SEC’s leading scorer in the final week of the regular season, the Gators can’t get complacent. 

“That’s remarkable. That said, I don’t know how surprised I am that he’s putting up the numbers he is, when you watch a guy that much,” White said. “It’s been a heckuva run (for him). We’re going to have to be really good to slow him down.” 

Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton (12) tries to get to the basket defended by Georgia Bulldogs guard Braelen Bridges (23) during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum.

Florida’s projected starters against Vanderbilt

CJ Felder;  F;  6-7;  231;  Jr.;  3.6 ppg;  2.4 rpg

Tyree Appleby;  G  6-1;  163;  Sr.;  11.3 ppg;  2.0 rpg

Myreon Jones;  G;  6-3;  175;  Sr.;  9.0 ppg;  2.8 rpg

Colin Castleton;  F;  6-11;  240;  Sr.;  16.0 ppg;  9.1 rpg

Phlandrous Fleming Jr.;  G;  6-5;  205;  Gr.;  10.7 ppg;  4.2 rpg

Vanderbilt’s projected starters against Florida

Quentin Millora-Brown;  F;  6-10;  235;  Sr.;  5.9 ppg;  5.8 rpg

Liam Robbins;  C;  7-0;  250;  Gr.;  6.0 ppg;  3.9 rpg

Tyrin Lawrence;  G;  6-4;  195;  So. 3.5 ppg;  2.3 rpg

Scotty Pippen Jr.;  G;  6-3;  185;  Jr. 20.2;  ppg;  3.6 rpg

Jordan Wright;  G;   6-6;  215;  Jr.;  11.9 ppg;  6.0 rpg

Notes: Anthony Duruji missed Saturday’s contest against Georgia, and it’s unclear if he will return against the Commodores. CJ Felder, who is battling through a hip strain, started in his place and played 11 minutes. “CJ is banged up too,” White said. “He hasn’t practiced in awhile, didn’t practice today. Ant didn’t practice today. We’re just, we’ve been banged up, especially in the frontcourt, obviously. Difficult, but what are you going to do? Hopefully one or both of those guys go tomorrow, I don’t know. It’s day-to-day.”  ... In the Jan. 22 meeting in Gainesville, the Gators led by three at halftime before outscoring the Commodores 30-14 over the final 20 minutes. … Florida is 72-71 in the all-time series against Vanderbilt. 

How to watch Florida Gators at Vanderbilt

Who: Florida at Vanderbilt

When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

TV: SEC Network.