An impressive all-around performance by freshman guard Bradley Beal – including 16 points on 50 percent shooting and seven rebounds in 30 minutes – led the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (19-4, 7-1 SEC) past the No. 25 Vanderbilt Commodores (16-7, 5-3 SEC) 73-65 Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
It was Florida’s seventh-straight victory and second in the last three days. UF has won 19 consecutive games in the O’Dome and four-in-a-row against Vanderbilt.
Though Beal was all over the court for the Gators, it was junior G Kenny Boynton who posted a team-high 18 points. Commodores’ forward Jeffery Taylor led all scorers with 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting (4-of-7 from downtown, 7-of-8 from the line).
Down 11-9 early in the contest, Florida exploded on a 10-0 run capped by five-straight points by Boynton to take an 19-11 lead with 9:33 left in the first half. Vanderbilt answered back with a 6-1 scoring stretch, but the Gators followed by notching seven points – a four-point play by Boynton and a trey from redshirt junior G Mike Rosario – to take a game-high 10-point lead on the Commodores with 5:36 remaining.
Florida, however, found themselves with three starters on the bench for the remainder of the half with Beal, sophomore center Patric Young and junior F Erik Murphy all sitting after each picked up two early fouls. Vanderbilt used this to their advantage, outscoring the Gators 11-5 down the stretch to reduce their deficit to three points at the break.
The Gators would not relent, battling to keep the game close before putting together an impressive 12-0 run including a pair of dagger treys from Beal to take a 58-49 lead. The Commodores fought back, keeping their deficit in the low single digits the rest of the way.
Up just four and trying to close out the contest, Florida took a seven-point lead with 1:03 to go thanks to a dagger three by Boynton, but Taylor answered immediately giving Vanderbilt yet another glimmer of hope. The Gators would hold on for the victory though, hitting all 14 of their second half free throws including four in the final 39 seconds.
Florida was nearly perfect from the line, netting a season-best 16-of-17 attempts. The Gators only shot 38.3 percent from the field but nailed 45.8 percent of their attempts from downtown. UF outrebounded VU 39-34 (14-10 offensively) and forced the Commodores to commit 17 turnovers thanks to a strong press in the second half.
Vanderbilt outscored Florida 26-16 in the paint, but the Gators used 18 points off the bench – 10 of them from Rosario on 4-of-8 shooting – to pull out the win.
Senior point guard Erving Walker joined the backcourt trio as the fourth Florida player with double-digit points, posting 11 on a paltry 3-of-11 shooting performance. His game-high five assists thrust him past Eddie Shannon (493) into No. 2 on UF’s all-time list, giving Walker 495 dimes for his career.
He also passed Ronnie Williams (3,898) for No. 4 on the Gators’ career minutes list (3,906) and tied Tony Miller (1,212) for eighth in field goal attempts with 11 on Saturday.
Sophomore F Will Yeguete, playing major minutes with Young and Murphy on the bench in foul trouble, grabbed team-highs of eight boards and three steals. He was pesky on defense throughout the game and the main cog in UF’s successful press.
Taylor added a game-high four steals to his total for Vanderbilt and was supported by G John Jenkins (15 points), C Festus Ezeli (11 pointss) and F Lance Goulbourne (game-high 11 rebounds).
Florida will look to continue their hot streak when they travel to face No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday evening. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN and marks the third time this season the Gators will face a top-three ranked opponent.