Consider Florida Gators basketball officially in danger of missing the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The Gators fell 87-74 to the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, despite having multiple opportunities to overcome obstacles and pull out a victory.
Florida (17-11, 8-7 SEC) has now dropped three of its last four games, while Vanderbilt (17-11, 9-6 SEC) looks to have replaced Tuesday’s hosts as the last Southeastern Conference team in the tournament.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Tuesday’s tough loss with nine quick-hitters.
It was over when: The Gators had three opportunities to tie the game or take the lead late in the contest but instead went on a 4:17 scoring drought, missing six straight shots as the Commodores took off on a 9-0 run to go up 11 and eventually take a game-high 12-point lead as the buzzer sounded.
First half focus: Lackadaisical defense – leading to catch-and-shoot threes and easy dunks (plus a 12-0 margin in second-chance points) – did Florida in over the first 20 minutes as Vanderbilt took an early 10-point lead and at one point went to the line for three consecutive and-one opportunities in the span of 1:02, negating effective UF offense. Still, the Gators had an opportunity to tie the game before half as junior point guard Kasey Hill found junior center Schuyler Rimmer wide open in the paint; unfortunately, Rimmer went up weak, got his shot blocked and saw it heaved in from 85 feet for a buzzer-beating three that put the Commodores up five at the break. Simply put, it was arguably the shot of the year and one that pulled a ton of momentum out of the O’Dome.
Vanderbilt just drained this heave buzzer-beater from Florida’s foul line. Unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/8TM5I8EplQ
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) February 24, 2016
Where were the stars? Florida did have players put forth good efforts on Tuesday, just not its best ballers. Redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith grabbed 11 boards but went 1-for-7 from the field (taking just two attempts inside the arc) , while freshman guard KeVaughn Allen missed all seven of his attempts and looked to have his mind in another place throughout the night. Somehow, redshirt freshman G Brandone Francis-Ramirez took a team-high 10 attempts; he only made two.
Shooting bad but not the problem: UF made fewer than 35 percent of its threes (.263) for the sixth straight game and shot 40 percent or worse from the field for the fourth consecutive contest. Still, scoring was not the problem on Tuesday. The Gators gave up a season-high 87 points, allowing 30 points in the paint and 17 second-chance points (12-0 margin in the first half). Florida let Vandy have open dunks and allowed the visitors to take and make open threes (it finished 10-for-20 from downtown) throughout the contest.
The Gators also had no answer for C Damian Jones, who torched UF for a career-high 27 points by making 12 of his 13 shots. In fact, Florida allowed Vanderbilt’s starting five to score 79 of its 87 points, meaning even a somewhat-decent offensive effort by UF did not matter at the end of the game. The 87 points were the most allowed since Jan. 25, 2011 (double overtime at Georgia, 91) and most in regulation since Nov. 16, 2010 (vs. Ohio State, 93).
Six minutes later, Vanderbilt hits this absurd shot-clock buzzer-beating three. pic.twitter.com/cNUpgcsSu1
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) February 24, 2016
OK, but someone had to play well: Indeed. Junior F Justin Leon (15 points) and sophomore F Devin Robinson (11 points) combined to hit 10-of-14 field goals, 2-of-3 threes and 4-of-5 free throws. The duo also registered three blocks (two for Robinson) and five rebounds (all for Leon).
Checking in on point guard play: Efforts from Florida’s floor generals have been an issue as of late, but Hill looked really solid in the first half, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting with five dimes, though he did commit three turnovers. Strangely, sophomore Chris Chiozza got most of the run in the second half, and he spent that time missing shots (until hitting a late three that didn’t matter much). Chiozza only committed one turnover, but he was responsible for a number of empty possession for UF.
Everything else: Florida did not lead for a second on Tuesday … the Gators hit 21-of-27 free throws (.778), including 13-of-15 in the second half … the Commodores were so open so often that they only had 11 assists on 30 baskets … UF took eight more attempts than VU but made six fewer
What it means: Forget Florida being “squarely in” the NCAA Tournament, as the SEC Network claimed throughout the broadcast. The Gators were already an estimated 10 seed entering the game; with the loss, they are likely out of the tournament if selections were made today. Florida must win two of its last three regular-season games, and it may even need a victory in its first contest in the 2016 SEC Tournament just to earn a spot in the dance.
Up next: Coming off three losses in its last four games (as well as three in its last four road games), UF will take on LSU on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Gators edged the Tigers 68-62 in Gainesville earlier this season. The contest will air live nationally on ESPN.