Gators earn sweep of Vanderbilt; Hodge becomes winningest Gator
GAINESVILLE - Led by the balanced scoring of five players in double figures, including 17 from freshman guard Erving Walker (PHOTO LEFT), Florida picked up a huge SEC East victory with an 82-68 win over Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon at the O’Connell Center.
It was the second win this season over Vandy. Florida is now 15-0 at home this season.
After losing three of five games, Florida (21-6, 8-4 SEC) has now won its last two home games as the Gators prepare to go on the road to face SEC-West leader LSU Tuesday night. Florida remains in a three-way tie for first place in the SEC East with Kentucky and South Carolina as of Saturday afternoon.
“These were huge wins for us on our home court,’’ said sophomore guard Nick Calathes, who had 14 points and four assists despite playing with flu-like symptoms. “It’s definitely great to take care of business on our home court. Now we’ve got LSU and I think we’ll be ready.’’
Florida jumped out to a 15-point lead midway through the first half on its way to a 40-23 halftime lead. Vanderbilt (16-10, 5-7), which had won four of its last five games, was held scoreless nearly eight minutes in the first half as Florida went on a 12-0 run.
Vanderbilt managed to pull within 55-41 on two free throws by George Drake with 12:30 remaining in the game, but the Gators hit back-to back 3-pointers by Calathes and junior guard Dan Werner to take the lead back to 20.
“That was a problem,’’ Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We talked about if we could get a couple of stops there and get a couple of points, we’d be okay. Then they hit those 3’s back-to-back and it was back to clawing our way in.’’
Florida shot 60 percent or better in both games against the Commodores this season. On Saturday, Vandy was 6-of-18 from 3-point range.
“I thought we played really well, our defense inside,'' Calathes said. "Ogilvy (A.J., Vandy center) is a beast, and I thought we played him really well and our team played well together. Our matchup zone really shook them up a little bit. Dan (Werner) stepped up and banged with those guys, and Kenny (Kadji) really stepped up big time. I thought he brought a lot of energy.’’
Along with Walker, four other Gators were in double figures: Werner (11), Alex Tyus (10), Walter Hodge (12) and Calathes (14). Kadji, the freshman reserve, also had seven points and four blocked shots in 16 minutes.
“I think for him, it probably will make him realize that he was here with Florida basketball at a very, very special time,’’ UF coach Billy Donovan said. “. . . Walter is all about winning. He’s a solid, good basketball player who I trust and he’s all about the right things. He’s all about winning and doing what he can to help the team. And I do think because that’s his makeup, that’s a great tribute to him because that’s what he’s all about.’’