Three days after struggling to score at all in a road trip to South Carolina, the Florida Gators men’s basketball played about 15 minutes of the same game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at home.
Then they heated up — and it still wasn’t enough to top the sweet-shooting ‘Dores, who held off the Gators for a 68-66 win that will be a significant blow to Florida’s NCAA Tournament aspirations.
KeVaughn Allen was brilliant for Florida, pumping in a season-high 29 points and making five of 12 threes on a day when the Gators made just eight triples as a team. But his desperation corner three with seconds left was both rushed and off-target, squandering a chance for Florida to steal this one from a Vandy team that made all manner of shots on the day.
The Commodores shot 40 percent from three, making 10 of their 25 attempts from distance, and got 58 points from their starters — exactly twice Allen’s total — with Matthew Fisher-Davis leading the way with 19. Florida’s starters scored 58 points, too, but only Devin Robinson (12 points) joined Allen in double figures, while Fisher-Davis had three teammates score 10 or more points.
And while Florida pulled down 12 offensive rebounds, the Gators scored on those second chances too infrequently to ever take control of a game that see-sawed back and forth for essentially the entire 40 minutes of play.
Vanderbilt is the first team with a losing record that Florida has fallen to this year, and is a very long shot to make the NCAA Tournament, making the Gators’ fifth loss of this season — and first at the O’Connell Center — their first truly damaging one.
The consecutive losses are also Florida’s first since the late stages of the 2015-16 regular season — when consecutive losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt led to a four-game skid.
The third loss in that skid? It came to LSU — which the Gators will see on Wednesday.