Gators drop 64-60 heartbreaker to Vanderbilt
They needed to win this game. Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons acknowledged that on Monday.
Whether Florida has fallen out of NCAA Tournament consideration remains to be seen, but its 64-60 loss at home to Vanderbilt was painful regardless.
The Gators held Vanderbilt to 32 percent shooting from the field in the second half (33 percent from beyond the arc), but Florida shot just 26.6 percent itself, allowing Vanderbilt to escape with the four point win at the O’Connell Center.
It was the second consecutive loss for the Gators (20-10, 9-6 SEC) and ended a streak of eight straight wins over the Commodores (23-6,12-3) in Gainesville.
“They only took eight free throws in the game and they average 33, so our guys did a terrific job playing defense without fouling and holding them to a low percentage,’’ UF coach Billy Donovan said. “They are a really, really good team. And with a really poor shooting night, we were not able to overcome a really good team, with our tough shooting night in the second half.’’
Trailing 62-60 in the final minute, Florida’s Erving Walker got a steal from Vanderbilt’s Jermaine Beal, giving the Gators one last opportunity to tie or win the game. Facing extra help defense, Parsons passed to Kenny Boynton, but his wide-open 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining didn’t fall.
"I was going to come off like a curl, dribble handoff and get a ball screen and they jumped out and switched so I turned it down,'' Parsons said. (A.J.) Ogilvy stepped up and Jenkins took out Vernon (Macklin) so I skipped it to KB. Got a great look. Those shots have been going down for him lately so you can't complain about the look we got.''
Florida trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, then fought its way back to a 38-35 halftime deficit. Riding a 16-2 run midway through the second half, the Gators took a 47-46 lead on a tip-in by Boynton with 11:47 remaining in the game. But after junior center Vernon Macklin scored a basket with 9:53 remaining, Florida never scored another field goal. Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins hit three consecutive 3-pointers between the 5:24 mark and 3:06 remaining to keep the Commodores in the game.
The Gators struggled offensively all night. Boynton and Walker were a combined 8-of-24, and junior forward Parsons was 1-of-4 and scored just three points.
“Every time I would get off a pick and roll or past Taylor, they'd have four guys sitting there,’’ Parsons said. “They did a great job playing help defense. Every time I would get past Taylor they had a wall there. It was really effective defense.’’
It was a bittersweet evening for senior Dan Werner, who was honored, accompanied by his family, during a pregame ceremony.
"Obviously it's tough,'' Werner said.. "I think we showed up. We battled. We played hard. It makes
it that much tougher when you don't get the win.''
The Gators will close out the regular season Sunday at Rupp Arena against the league's top team, Kentucky. If the Gators lose, they will enter next week's SEC tournament with three consecutive losses.
"This one was huge; you win this game you're in the tournament,'' Parsons said. :So I mean it definitely hurts to fall short, especially on senior night for Dan with everything on the line. We can't hang our heads and let them (Kentucky) beat us twice. We've got to bounce back and play the best team in the conference on Sunday so we've got another great opportunity ahead.''
The Gators said they aren't concerning themselves with whether or not they are on the bubble or not. They know what they have to do.
"We can't worry about that, we just have to win,'' junior forward Alex Tyus said. "If we win, everything else will take care of itself. We just have to win.''