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No. 16 Florida Gators lose second straight game, 77-67 at Vanderbilt Commodores

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Jenkins hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points, and Vanderbilt beat No. 16 Florida 77-67 on Tuesday night to clinch a first-round bye in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Commodores (21-9, 10-5) outshot the nation's top 3-point shooting team behind Jenkins, who easily topped his average of 3.9 3-pointers by hitting his first five. They are tied with Florida for second in the SEC with one game left in the regular season.

Vanderbilt, which snapped a four-game losing streak to the Gators, can finish no worse than third going into its finale Saturday at Tennessee. Jeffery Taylor added 18 points and Festus Ezeli had 11.

Bradley Beal scored 16, Erving Walker 15 and Kenny Boynton 11 for Florida (22-8, 10-5), which has lost two straight. The Gators, who lost to Georgia on Saturday, still can finish second by themselves but have a tall mountain to climb: They have to beat No. 1 Kentucky at home on Sunday.

Still, coach Billy Donovan said he was pleased with how his team battled.

"I was much more pleased, much prouder of our basketball team," Donovan said. "I walked off the floor against Georgia in Athens and I was really bothered. I walked off the floor (Tuesday) disappointed we lost, but proud of the way we competed."

The Commodores got off to an emotional start minutes after honoring seven seniors, four of them starters including Taylor and Ezeli, whose parents made the 20-hour flight from Nigeria to watch. They led for the first 30 minutes until Casey Prather dunked on a fast break to give the Gators their first lead, 50-49 with 10:32 left.

The teams swapped the lead on the next five possessions, and Florida last led on a 3-pointer by Erik Murphy.

Taylor answered with a 3 from the left corner with 9:48 left, and Vanderbilt never trailed again even though the Gators didn't go away easily.

They twice got within a point, the last time on Beal's 3-pointer with 5:41 left. Taylor hit his fourth 3, then Vandy made 12 of 14 free throws over the final 5:04.

Vandy 77

16 UF 67

No. 16 Florida Gators lose second straight game, 77-67 at Vanderbilt Commodores 02/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 12:21am]
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