Fastbreak: No. 1 Florida edges Vanderbilt 57-54, clinches share of SEC regular-season title

Involved in yet another dogfight on Tuesday evening, the No. 1 Florida Gators (26-2, 15-0 SEC) once again prevailed by holding on for a 57-54 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (15-12, 7-8 SEC) on the road at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, TN.

Florida clinched at least a share of the 2014 SEC regular-season title, extended its school-record winning streak to 20 games and continued a number of other program-best marks including winning 15 SEC games in a single season. UF also improved to 13-2 this campaign in single-digit decisions (0-6 last year) and 10-2 in true road games.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with seven quick-hitters:

It was over when / perfect play: Redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith, with Florida up two and the shot clock winding down, drained a dagger three-pointer to put the Gators up five with 30.9 seconds to play. “When he starts to make some shots, it will open up some other things for his game,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “He had really good looks tonight. … We had to shoot the ball over the top. … Obviously that was a big shot up by two.”

Prominent player: Finney busted out of his slump with gusto, hitting 6-of-11 shots off the bench for a game-high 19 points. He also grabbed a game-high nine boards and filled in a lot of the holes left by senior F Casey Prather, who is still hobbled by ankle and knee injuries. Finney-Smith was 1-for-23 from downtown in his previous five games dating back to Feb. 1 but hit 3-of-6 triples on Tuesday evening. Prather went just 1-for-5 with two points but grabbed six boards, registered four steals and dished three assists.

Significant stretch: Trailing 11-9 early in the first half, Florida broke out with a 13-0 run – including back-to-back threes from sophomore guard Michael Frazier II – and took a 22-11 lead with 8:35 to go until halftime. A 6-0 response by Vanderbilt knocked the visitors back a peg, but UF closed the half with a last-second fadeaway jumper by senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin to lead by seven at the break. Frazier (nine points) went just 2-for-7 from three but grabbed six boards on the evening. Wilbekin (seven points) made only 3-of-10 baskets (1-for-6 from deep) but contributed five assists.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.

(Another) perfect play: Senior center Patric Young missed a poorly-shot layup midway through the first half but followed the shot and grabbed his own offensive rebound with authority. After pulling it down, he made a reverse layup with only his right hand, hooking the ball under the basket to complete the impressive play. Young scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds (six offensive).

Standout stat: Averaging 32.2 percent from beyond the arc this season, Vanderbilt hit eight of its first 16 attempts from three, keeping the game closer than it should have been. The Commodores missed their last two attempts from beyond the arc, however, which contributed to the Gators’ ability to hold on for the victory. VU became the third-straight team to hit eight or more threes against UF. “Vanderbilt did a great job. They gave themselves every opportunity in the game and put themselves in position to win,” Donovan said.

What it means: In addition to clinching a share of the SEC regular-season title and extending its winning streak, Florida has now won 25 of its last 26 games. UF also improved to 13-2 in single-digit decisions and 10-2 in true road games. At 15-0, the Gators are also off to their best start in SEC play. UF has now won a program-record eight-straight SEC road games and improved to 77-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.

Next up: The Gators return to Gainesville, FL, where they will play two of their remaining three conference games, to host LSU on Saturday at 4 p.m. Florida can clinch the outright 2014 SEC Championship and earn the No. 1 overall seed in the 2014 SEC Tourament with a victory in the game, which will air live on CBS.

“We’ve had four of our last five games on the road,” Donovan said. “It’s been a five-game grind for our basketball team where you’re getting everybody’s best shot. And then emotionally you’re trying to get yourselves up to play at that level.”

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12 Responses to “Fastbreak: No. 1 Florida edges Vanderbilt 57-54, clinches share of SEC regular-season title”

  1. Michael Jones says:

    What a team, what a team, what a team . . . . character, heart, courage. This team stands for everything that I believe in and love.

    Really smart of Billy to put D. Walker at the other wing with Frazier against the zone defenses. I hope the announcers, analysts and the rest of the nation keep believing that we only have 1 three point shooter.

    Wow, man. . . . . . what a team.

    • Joshua says:

      I’m with you, Michael. These kids fight regardless of the opponent, the venue, shots are falling or not… they fight and that’s why they’re #1! Obviously not the dominating victory you would like to see but another gritty win on the road. Coach D has done a great job with this group.

      GO GATORS!

  2. Gatoralum88 says:

    I’m now convinced that every opponent from here on out will have stretches where they CAN’T MISS from 3-pt range DESPITE good defense. Nevertheless, it’s another good win. GREAT to see Doe Doe have a big game & a good shooting night. Hill needs to get back in the line-up. Walker has been worthless! He’s a fool if he’s even considering turning pro. He’d be in Europe in no time. 15 down, 3 to go! Go Gators!!!

    • Ken (CA) says:

      They have really stepped up and hit the FT a lot better now, but 3-point D could be the glaring weakness in this team, not sure why they play such strong D and allow so many 3s still, maybe over reacting or something, not an expert but when teams like Auburn and others with such poor 3pt % are hitting 50%, that is scary…

    • Michael Jones says:

      Chris Walker is still developing. He has to get physically stronger. He needs time to catch up to everybody else who’s had a huge head start on him. . . a whole semester head start, not counting summer conditioning and workouts. But he’s far from worthless. There’s not a guy on that team who’s worthless.

      They’re amateur athletes who play for our school. They’re Gators.

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    wow, this is truly a bunch of “cardiac kids”. Tough mental team. I thought for sure the “it was over when” would be DoDo’s 3 pointer, but they hung tough

  4. gatorboi352 says:

    3 point defense is starting to concern me (that’s how heavily favored teams get upset in the tourney). But the offense should start flowing much more consistently once Hill returns. Scottie is playing way too many minutes right now.

  5. Adam Sioui says:

    Many times, Vandy hit those 3′s with the shot clock waning. There’s no defense for that. I’m slightly concerned with the lack of killer instinct when the Gators find themselves up by more than 10. Instead of stepping on the opponent’s throat, team’s have been able to claw back into the game. We all should enjoy the ride, though. 20 game win streaks don’t happen often.

  6. Michael Jones says:

    Championship teams aren’t the ones who are 3-crazy. They tend to play good D and score from the inside-out, with the occasional timely 3 admittedly being an important part of the equation.

    For the past 3 years we were the team that hit 3′s for the 1st 3/4′s of the game but, at crunch time, we were close but no cigar. This team is different. Ironically, now we’re the team that weathers the storm of the other team’s 3-point shooting for the 1st 3/4′s of the game but, come crunch time, it’s our solid defense, and well-balanced, distribute-the-ball, attack-the-basket-1st offense that holds sway.

    Hitting 3′s is dependent on being hot or cold. This team wins by toughness, gritty defense, and character. Those are things that you can count on and control a lot more than being hot from the 3 point line.

    I like our defense. I like how everybody blocks out and how everybody helps on the boards. I like how nobody gets to penetrate against our help defense, which will inevitably open up the occasional 3. But the 3 point shot is a fickle mistress, and living and dying by the 3, in the end, is mostly dying.

    • Timmy T says:

      I agree. Teams rarely shoot over 40% from the 3-line, yet our last 3 opponents have done just that….and we still won. Tough, gritty, and character are great descriptions of this team. Experienced, smart, well-balanced, and superbly coached are a few more. I absolutely love watching this team ball out. Unlike the last few years, I now expect us to close games out when it gets tight, whereas before I was scared to death and just waiting for something bad to happen.

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