Commodores came Close last time, can they Upend Florida in Gainesville Tonight

Greg Arias

The Vanderbilt Commodores and the Florida Gators will face each other for the second time in two weeks tonight at the O-Dome in Gainesville. Vanderbilt gave the Gators a scare in the first meeting in Nashville, falling by a final of 61-55. Can the find a way to win this one on the road? 

The Commodores have made it a habit to play close of late but fail to finish it off in victory,  with the lone exception being their upset of LSU, and it has been the same theme in every loss. Play close, stagger late and fall in the end. 

It happened twice against Kentucky, at Mississippi State and in the last meeting with the Gators on Feb,1 at Memorial Gym. 

 Will this time be different? 

The answer while unknown as of now is simple. Hit shots, continue to play with the heart, hustle, and desire we've seen and this is a game the Commodores could steal on the road.  

Since last these teams met, the Gators are 2-1, having won at home over Georgia 81-75  and at Texas A&M 78-61 sandwiched around losing at Ole Miss 68-51. 

The Gators are 15-9 overall, 7-4 in conference and are currently in second place behind Auburn, Kentucky, and LSU who are all tied atop the league with 9-2 records in SEC play.

While it is unlikely the Gators will finish second once the tie is broken, they are still in a good position for a high seed in the coming SEC Tournament, so they can ill-afford a home loss to the last-place team in the standings heading to Nashville. 

Florida averages 72.3 ppg offensively while allowing 66.8 defensively and on the season, in each of their losses, they have been held well below their scoring average, with the lone outlier being their loss to LSU in which they scored 82 points in defeat.   

Kerry Blackshear Jr. continues to lead the way in scoring, averaging 13.5 per game along with a team-leading 7.9 rebounds per outing. 

Forward Keyonte Johnson (13.3), and guards Andrew Nembhard (12.0), and Noah Locke (10.4) round out the double-figure scorers for Florida.  

As is the case in every game depth will be an issue for the Commodores as Florida sports eight players who average double figures in minutes per game. 

Still, the formula for a Vanderbilt win remains the same, and that's hit shots.

 The question is can they hit enough of them this time around to get over the top and beat the Gators.