Fri, 05 Mar 2021

Florida looks for season sweep of slumping Vanderbilt

Field Level Media
27 Jan 2021, 05:19 GMT+10

Florida looks for a third straight win in Southeastern Conference play Wednesday night when Vanderbilt visits Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators (8-4, 5-3 SEC) followed a 75-49 home upset of then-No. 6 Tennessee on Jan. 19 with a 92-84 win at Georgia on Saturday. Tre Mann scored a career-high 24 pointsto lead five Florida players in double figures.

"We've changed the whole dynamics (on offense) since I've been here, and now, we've started playing much faster," said junior Noah Locke, who chipped in 16 against the Bulldogs. "We've switched some things lately, but that seems like the best way for us."

In addition to playing at a quicker tempo, the Gators have improved their interior play -- starting with their 91-72 rout of Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-5) in Nashville on Dec. 30.

That was a breakout game for 6-foot-11 junior Colin Castleton, the Michigan transfer who had scored 26 total points in his first four games before facing the Commodores. He exploded for a game-high 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field in Nashville, adding five rebounds and two blocks in 30 minutes.

Since that evening, the junior has scored in double figures in five of the six games he's played, reaching 21 points against both Ole Miss and LSU.

Castleton missed the Tennessee win after injuring his ankle late in a loss at Mississippi State. That opened the door for more playing time for 6-foot-10 sophomore Omar Payne, who tallied a combined 19 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks over Florida's last two games.

Florida's defense gave Vandy trouble both inside (nine blocks) and on the perimeter (nine steals) in the earlier meeting. Four Gators average at least a steal per game, led by Tyree Appleby (1.8) and Mann (1.7).

As for the Commodores, losers of five straight, they again struggled defensively in Saturday's 92-71 home loss to Arkansas that frustrated coach Jerry Stackhouse.

"We've gotta clean some things up," Stackhouse said of his defense. "We've gotta find some guys that want to play basketball. Right now, we've got some guys that don't want to play no damn basketball. We've gotta figure that out sooner rather than later."

The Commodores' biggest problem is a lack of overall talent and athleticism. Vanderbilt gets a lot of mileage out of point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. (20.6 points and 5.3 assists per game) and forward Dylan Disu (13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds), but has yet to find consistent contributors elsewhere.

Disu missed Saturday's game, and that showed up inside, as the Razorbacks out-rebounded Vandy by a 39-29 count and shot 63.6 percent on 2-pointers.

Even Pippen's effectiveness has diminished. After four-straight 18-point games to open SEC play, he had 15 on Saturday and has 10 turnovers against six assists the past two contests.

About the only good news for the Commodores on Saturday was the play of D.J. Harvey, who had season highs in points (16) and minutes (30).

--Field Level Media

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