Vanderbilt fades at No. 11 Florida, falls 66-40
Posted at: 03/06/2013 10:09 PM
By MARK LONG
(AP) GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Vanderbilt became the latest team frustrated by Florida’s suffocating defense.
The Commodores managed 14 points in the first half and weren’t much better after the break in a 66-40 loss to the 11th-ranked Gators on Wednesday night.
Kedren Johnson was the lone bright spot for Vanderbilt (13-16, 7-10 Southeastern Conference), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. He scored 15 points, including 13 straight at one point.
The Commodores cut the lead to seven in an ugly, low-scoring game early in the second half. But Florida started to pull away with stifling defense and a barrage of 3-pointers.
Michael Frazier II started the onslaught. Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton, both seniors playing their final game in the O’Connell Center, added 3s.
Together, they started a 25-8 run that turned a tight game into a lopsided affair. Vandy became the 12th team to fail to score 50 points against Florida this season and first since late January.
"Once you start letting them take shots from the perimeter, you’re done," Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. "We did a pretty good job up to that point. We probably, at some point, just got frustrated with our own inability to make a shot. Eventually, that impacts your defense."
With the victory, the Gators clinched the Southeastern Conference regular season championship.
Florida won its fourth outright league title and third under longtime coach Billy Donovan. The Gators (24-5, 14-3 SEC) also were alone atop the standings in 1988-89, 2006-07 and 2010-11.
Like the others, this one earned the Gators the No. 1 seed heading into next week’s SEC tournament. It also capped a perfect season (15-0) at home and sent seniors Boynton, Murphy and Mike Rosario out with a victory on "Senior Night."
After the win, the Gators started cutting down the nets.
"It felt good," said Boynton, who had 15 points. "I definitely want that feeling again. In order to get it, we’ve definitely got to keep winning."
Donovan credited his players for persevering through numerous injuries and said they definitely overachieved this season.
"They put a common goal out there in front of them and strived and reached for it together, and the amount of sacrifice that goes into it all the way around," Donovan said. "There’s a lot to be learned from this team for each other before they go onto the next step."
Boynton, Murphy and Rosario were honored before the game, each walking out with family members and getting a framed jersey from Donovan.
The tribute and having so many friends and family members on hand may have been a little overwhelming since all of them started slowly.
Boynton missed four of his first five shots. Murphy missed his first two. Rosario was off on three of his first five.
But Vandy couldn’t capitalize, partly because the Commodores missed 14 of their first 16 shots from behind the arc.
"Once we got frustrated from not hitting shots, it translated to the defensive end," Johnson said.
Things got a little testy in the second half.
Vanderbilt’s Sheldon Jeter got called for a charge and was given a technical foul for arguing with the officials. Boynton hit both free throws on the other end, and then the Commodores were given a bench warning for more comments.
It did little to turn things around.
The Gators have been the class of the conference all season, winning 14 SEC games by double digits.
Boynton, Murphy and Rosario have been major contributors to the team’s success. Donovan recognized them again with 2:18 remaining when he called time out and took them out of the game. Murphy finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Rosario had five points, three assists and two rebounds.
The loudest ovation came as they climbed the ladder and took aim at the net.
"It was up to Coach and he came up to us and said, `Do you guys want to?’" Murphy said. "Of course we want to. That was something special, too, in itself. I haven’t done that in my college career and it was a great feeling."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)