Florida beat Vanderbilt, 50-47, on Wednesday night. That makes sense. Sort of.
The rest? Well...
It's cliche to open up a sports article by saying a game was "a tale of two halves," and seeing how Florida ended the first half on an eight-minute scoring drought before roari ... er, purring back to finish the game victorious despite not having Dorian Finney-Smith or Michael Frazier II, you'd think that could be the case. But it really wasn't.
This game was a poor showing by both teams, and though it's nice for Florida to get the win, I can't really give you a single player I thought had a game worth touting. (Maybe Devin Robinson, but we'll get to that.) As opposed to having two tales, this game had quite a few chapters that were hilarious, awesome, painful, or just worth noting. And in the end, Florida was able to end a four-game losing streak without their top two scorers.
It was that kind of night.
In the first two minutes of play, Florida's Jon Horford had a missed 3-pointer, a block, two rebounds, a layup and two blown defensive assignments which lead to a Vanderbilt layup. But at that 18:00 mark, Donovan called a timeout to scold Horford on his defensive play, and Horford was basically nonexistent after that, recording just two more points and four more rebounds the rest of the game.
It was that kind of night, too.
With the emphasis off Horford, the Gators went to some unconventional scorers and modes of scoring, which included whatever the heck this was:
Florida would, at one point in the first half, go on an 11-2 run, thanks to Chris Chiozza and Alex Murphy going 3-for-4 from three-point range. Murphy, who went into this contest shooting seven percent (this is not a typo) from beyond the arc, not only finished the game 2-for-4 from deep, but also tied his career high in points, with 11. Chiozza's two threes were his first from beyond the arc since January 27 against Alabama; he'd been 0-for-10 in February since then.
But following that last Murphy three, the Gators went on a bit of a drought, not scoring a field goal for the last 8:39 of the half. If that wasn't bad enough, Commodore Riley LaChance hit a monster 3-pointer at the buzzer to take us into halftime on a 13-0 Vandy run and lead by a score of 25-19 (gross).
Enter the second half, or Act II of this tragedy.
The half started out bang-bang with one quick basket by each team, cruelly giving everyone an "Oh, here we go" train of thought ... and then went five entire minutes with just two total points, both on Florida free throws.
No, of course they weren't on the same trip. Why would you think that?
Vanderbilt would go on two long scoring droughts of their own during this half, one lasting just under five minutes without a single point, the other lasting 8:31 without a field goal (the only points from free throws). And though you think being the best three-point shooting team in the SEC (37 percent average) would help, Vandy's rangefinders were off on the evening, as the 'Dores went just 6-for-20 from deep. That's not to say the Gators were forcing them into tough shots, either: The primary reason Vandy didn't take this game is because they missed their open shots (or because Damian Jones fouled out with six minutes to go, but I digress).
We fast forward to just 1:30 left where the score was deadlocked at 44-44. It was at this time that some jerk named Richard Johnson from The Independent Florida Alligator tweeted the fear in every watcher's mind into existence:
This game is gonna go to overtime because you were mean to your mother that one time and this is what you've earned because of it.— Richard Johnson (@RagjUF) February 19, 2015
Mercifully, that ending was never written, as a big-time dunk from Robinson, combined with two clutch free throws from Chiozza (a rarity) sealed the game for Florida as they pulled off the upset (don't care) on their home floor, 50-47.
Apart from Murphy's career night, Eli Carter had two assists for the first time in February, Chris Walker set a new career high in blocks with five while playing fewer minutes than Jacob Kurtz, Kasey Hill had one field goal in the final minute and one point in the other 39, Chiozza set a new career high for minutes played with 31, and LaChance took more shots (18) than Vandy made (17).
And, basically, I have no idea how Florida managed to pull this one off. Horford, as stated early, was quiet after the first two minutes. Carter didn't make his first basket until 12:44 to go in the second half, and Robinson seemed to be in Billy's dog house for most of the game, as he didn't even play for most of the second half (or end of the first): 10 of his 12 points (which led the Gators) came in the game's final 11:04.
There's not much of a "looking forward" note to take away from this one. Florida probably would've dropped this game had they been playing any other team in the SEC. I didn't see a reliable source of offense on this roster even before Frazier and Finney-Smith were sidelined. Now? There might be a few more under-50 games. There's talent on this team, it's just not coming out as a team yet. I've said it before: I don't think it does this season.
But, hey, a conference win is a conference win, and I'm certainly not going to be the one to take it away from them, especially without their top two scorers. It's a win, but it probably doesn't feel like a win.
More like a puzzle.