The Gators got a pretty big win tonight, beating the 2nd best conference team record-wise in #24 Vanderbilt 74-64. The win moved the #1 Gators to 7-0 in conference play and 20-2 overall.
The win also gives the team 20 wins before the end of January -- the first team to reach that mark in school history.
While the outcome was a double-digit win for Florida, it wasn't as easy as the final score may have indicated. The Commodores, who led at the half 41-30, shot 54% in the first half, led by F Derrick Byars with 14 points in the opening frame. Overall Byars had 21 points, but it would not be enough to hold off a second half Gators surge.
After trailing by 11 going into the half, the Gators opened up the second half with a 26-6 run to put them up by 9, 56-47. In the second half the Gators shot nearly 73%, erasing the deficit and taking the lead for good over the Commodores. 4 Gators were in double digits this evening, led by Joakim Noah and his 19 points. Al Horford added a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards.
There is nothing this guy does not do (GatorZone photo).
While the Gators were shooting the lights out in the second half, the Commodores couldn't match the effort put forth in the first half. In the second frame Vandy shot only 35% from the floor - including only going 2-9 from beyond the arc in the half. Overall the Commodores only made 3-18 from the 3-point line in the game, after coming in averaging over 9.
While I think we are all happy with the 2nd half performance of the Gators this evening, I still think that this game taught us a valuable lesson. If a team, such as Vandy, gets hot from the floor and plays a complete game (as opposed to one good half) it's very easy to lose -- especially come tournament time. Once again, the Gators must find a way to not have a bad half here and there, as it will turn out to doom them when it's a must win situation.
In terms of Vandy...how in the heck did this team lose to Furman and Appalachian State? Tonight I felt I saw a team that could make a mini-tournament run come March with their quickness on the perimeter and precise shooting. Perhaps I don't know as much about basketball as I thought?
Hopefully I can get more up on this exciting game tomorrow. For now, have a pleasant evening.