NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — First-year coach Bryce Drew believes his Vanderbilt Commodores have put together a very strong resume for the NCAA Tournament.
Adding a second upset of No. 12 Florida in the regular season finale sure helped.
Riley LaChance’s layup with 1:35 left gave Vanderbilt the lead for good, and the Commodores rallied from a 12-point deficit to upset Florida 73-71 on Saturday and sweep the Gators.
With the win, Vanderbilt (17-14, 10-8 Southeastern Conference) has won five of six overall and polished up its resume for the NCAA Tournament. The Commodores won despite one of their worst shooting days this season outside the arc by the SEC’s best 3-point shooters.
“We’re definitely playing our best basketball right now, which is when you want to be playing your best …,” Drew said. “I’m biased. I think we should be in. We’ve won nine of our last 12, and five of those wins are against teams that are going to be in. There are a lot of things hopefully going our way.”
Florida (24-7, 14-4) goes into the SEC Tournament having lost two of its last three.
The Gators led 54-42 with 12:06 left, then went cold down the stretch.
“Vanderbilt was more poised,” Florida coach Mike White said. “They were more solid both offensively and defensively. They made better decisions. Two veteran teams, they played like a veteran team. We didn’t play enough like one. They were terrific.”
Florida, which lost 68-66 to Vanderbilt in Gainesville in January, had its chances. Kasey Hill’s driving layup missed with 6.7 seconds left and a wild heave by the Gators came nowhere close to the backboard at the buzzer.
The Gators allowed Vanderbilt to hit 10 of 25 outside the arc in Gainesville earlier this season. This time, the SEC’s second-best defense against the 3-point shot smothered the league’s best shooters outside the arc. Vanderbilt, who averaged a league-high 10.1 3s per game, matched its season-low knocking down only 5 of 22.
Florida led 40-31 at halftime and pushed that to 54-42 on a layup by Devin Robinson.
Then the Commodores started going inside and wound up outscoring Florida 36-34 in the paint. LaChance hit two free throws to tie it at 63, and his layup with 3:26 left tied it again at 65. After a tie at 67, LaChance drove for yet another layup to put the Commodores up 69-67.
Luke Kornet hit four of six at the free throw line to seal the big upset on Senior Day.
“It was a high stakes game for us,” Vandy senior Nolan Cressler said. “We had a lot to play for coming into this game and something that comes to mind, just before the game we talked about leaving it all out there. I think we really fought and we really pulled it together and got a huge win for us.”
Kornet finished with a game-high 24 points. Jeff Roberson added 15 points, and LaChance and Cressler each had 13.
Canyon Barry led the Gators with 15 points. KeVaughn Allen had 13, Chris Chiozza 11 and Hill finished with 10.
Florida: This loss may have hurt the Gators’ case for a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament and a chance to open that tournament in Orlando.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores improved to 3-2 this season against Top 25 opponents, a much-needed win after blowing a 19-point lead at Kentucky on Tuesday night. Vandy is 2-1 against ranked teams at Memorial Gym.
Florida: Possible rematch with Vanderbilt on Friday night at SEC Tournament.
Vanderbilt: Texas A&M on Thursday night at SEC Tournament.
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