Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators stave off comeback to beat Vanderbilt

By Jake Winderman
January 27, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators stave off comeback to beat Vanderbilt
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Florida Gators basketball fended off a late run by the Vanderbilt Commodores on Wednesday night to finalize a 78-71 win at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and elevate themselves to second in the SEC standings. The Gators (9-4, 6-3 SEC) have now won three straight games for the first time this season in league play and have scored 75+ points in each of those games.

Florida won its sixth straight over Vanderbilt with five players recording double-digit scoring performances. The Gators led by as many as 22 points midway through the second half but saw that lead dissipate down the stretch thanks to an impressive run by the ‘Dores that was too little too late.

What went down on Wednesday evening in Gainesville, Florida? Take a look at our Fastbreak takeaways from the latest showdown between the Gators and Commodores.

It was over when … Florida started the second half on a 20-6 run to take a 22-point lead with 9:52 remaining. The Gators shot an impressive 54.2% from the field in the final frame and recorded nine assists on 13 second-half buckets. Florida led by as many as 19 points with 7:18 to play but did see Vanderbilt cut into its advantage with a 22-7 scoring stretch. Suddenly, UF was only up four points with 37 seconds left, but it made five free throws to ice the game.

First half focus: Florida hit a barrage of threes, powering itself to a 37-29 lead at halftime. It knocked down 7 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc during the first 20 minutes with five different Gators hitting at least one trey. There was a significant foul disparity in the first half with Florida not shooting a single free throw, but it made 15 of 30 first field goals, including 6 of 9 to end the half.

Sophomore point guard Tre Mann and junior center Colin Castleton both picked up two fouls early in the first half, leading to the duo only playing a combined 8 minutes. Sophomore guard Scottie Lewis, who returned after a four-game absence due to COVID-19 precautions, picked up their slack with 10 points as 20 of the Gators’ 37 first-half points came from the bench.

Exceptional efforts: Lewis was expected to be on a minutes restriction, but that was not the case due to foul trouble. He didn’t miss a beat in his first game since Jan. 9, posting 10 points, four assists and a career-high four steals in 28 minutes. Lewis’ two-way game is unparalleled on this Florida roster, and his ability to lead the Gators in transition on offense is a real plus when he’s on the floor. The former McDonald’s High School All-American picked his spots well offensively and gave UF a necessary spark of energy off of the bench. Lewis looked to be back to his normal level of conditioning and had no issue getting up and down the floor, with or without the ball in his hands. It would be surprising if he’s not back in the starting lineup vs. No. 11 West Virginia on Saturday.

Despite dealing with first-half foul trouble, Mann made a major impact in the second half, finishing with 15 points and four boards in just 23 minutes. Florida’s offense is much more fluid with Mann on the floor. His level-headedness as a one-guard and scoring prowess as a two-guard makes him a lethal offensive threat for the Gators.

Junior G Noah Locke continued to find his stroke with 12 points on 3 of 7 shooting from three. He’s made at least three triples in four of the Gators’ past seven games. Castleton also finished with 12 points on an efficient 6 of 8 shooting.

Odds and ends: The Gators are now 8-0 this season when scoring 72+ points … UF recorded 16 assists on 28 made baskets … Florida has held opponents under 75 points in eight of 13 games this season … the Gators had a 26-10 bench scoring advantage but were beat 30-28 in the paint and 14-2 on second chances … Florida is now 105-10 when leading with five minutes to go under Mike White … UF improved to 70-71 all-time against VU with a 44-20 mark in the O’Dome and a 7-6 record under White

What it means: While the victory won’t do anything for Florida’s NCAA Tournament resume, it gave the Gators a chance to reintegrate Lewis back into the game plan after his four-game absence. Lewis picked up right where he left off and fit back in seamlessly on both ends of the floor. With junior forward Keyontae Johnson still out indefinitely, Lewis has to be at his best on the wings and with his help defense for the Gators to reach the peak of their potential, sans Johnson.

What’s next? Florida will have two days off before hitting the road to face No. 11 West Virginia in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Mountaineers are coming off of an impressive 88-87 win over No. 10 Texas Tech and have won three of their last four games.

UF and WVU have played nine games against each other since the 1949-50 season with the Gators winning six of those contests. Florida last played West Virginia during the 2018-19 season at Madison Square Garden, winning 66-56 behind KeVaughn Allen’s 19 points.

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