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Florida survives Vandy in first game at No. 1

Florida forward Casey Prather drives to the basket past Vanderbilt forward James Siakam, left, and forward Damian Jones in the first half.

Associated Press

Florida forward Casey Prather drives to the basket past Vanderbilt forward James Siakam, left, and forward Damian Jones in the first half.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida coach Billy Donovan knows his newly top-ranked Gators are an even bigger target. They just keep finding ways to finish off victories.

Dorian Finney-Smith scored 19, and Florida, playing its first game at No. 1, held off Vanderbilt 57-54 on Tuesday night to clinch at least a share of its second straight Southeastern Conference title and seventh overall.

The Gators are 13-2 in games decided by single digits after losing all six last season, and Donovan said their margin for error is not very big.

"We're not an overly talented team, we're just not," Donovan said. "And what these guys have done up to this point in time it really has been pretty remarkable in my opinion. They've done a really good job. … But I think sometimes when you see a team with a high ranking you think dominance, you think they just blow everybody out. That's not what we are or who we are."

Patric Young added 12 points for the Gators (26-2, 15-0), who continued the best season in school history by winning their 20th straight game. They would claim their third SEC title in four years all to themselves with a win against LSU on Saturday.

"Humbling to know that we can come from where we were not being able to do it last year and be able to finish out these close games this year," Young said.

The Commodores (15-12, 7-8) beat Florida 83-70 the last time the Gators came into Memorial Gym ranked No. 1, on Feb. 17, 2007. Coach Kevin Stallings has only seven healthy scholarship players right now, and they struggled against Florida's smothering defense and much deeper bench.

"We did a good job, but that's why they're the No. 1 team in the country," Stallings said. "They've got weapons. They throw it to the open guy, and that guy usually delivers. That's why they've lost two games."

The Commodores made it interesting. After UF's Scottie Wilbekin missed a free throw, Vandy's Kyle Fuller missed a tying 3 in the final seconds when Luke Kornet was guarded closely by Young, and Dai-Jon Parker missed a putback.

Florida survives Vandy in first game at No. 1 02/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 7:23am]
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