A Heartbreaking End

Commodores fall by a point to Florida in the second round of the SEC Tournament

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida’s Nina Rickards hit two free throws with eight seconds to play Thursday giving Florida its first and only lead and the Gators held on to beat Vanderbilt 53-52 at Bridgestone Arena in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

The Commodores, who ended their season at 14-18, had two chances for a game-winning shot as time ran out.

Florida (21-9) ended the game on a 23-8 run.

Vanderbilt had a 14-point lead in the third quarter and led by 11 going into the final period. Florida refused to go quietly and cut the deficit to five with 6:59 to go and again with 4:42 left.

The margin shrunk to three with 4:16 left and then Zipporah Broughton’s jumper from the left side with 3:18 on the clock got the Gators within 48-47.

Florida couldn’t get any closer than that the rest of the way – until Rickards sank two free throws with eight seconds on the clock.

Brinae Alexander led the Commodores with 18 points. Iyana Moore scored 16 and Sacha Washington pulled in 13 rebounds.

Florida advances to face Mississippi at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Vanderbilt started Thursday’s game much like it started Wednesday’s – hot. An 8-0 run featured back-to-back 3s from Moore and Alexander, respectively, and a putback by Jordyn Cambridge. 

It took Florida nearly five minutes to score after the Commodores had already built a 12-0 start.

The Gators found their footing and put together an 8-0 run at the end of the period to get within 16-12 going into the second frame. Vanderbilt went scoreless the final 3:22 of the period.

That drought lasted another 1:55 into the second quarter before an Alexander layup put Vandy ahead 18-14.

Florida was able to knot the score at 18-all, but Moore answered on the other end with a badly-needed triple from the left wing. Kaylon Smith later gave Vanderbilt some breathing room with jumpers that made it 23-18 and then 25-20.

A Moore 3-pointer from the right corner and an Alexander three-point play ended the first half for the Commodores and gave them a 31-22 lead. Vandy forced 13 first-half turnovers out of the Gators and got 23 points combined from Moore and Alexander.

Moore, with another 3, put Vanderbilt ahead 10 at 34-24 early in the third quarter. The Commodores wouldn’t score for another four minutes until a pair of Yaubryon Chambers free throws put Vandy ahead 36-29.

Alexander put the Commodores ahead 13 with a layup and then two free throws. Washington gave Vandy its biggest lead at that point – 44-30 – with a bucket down low and the Commodores were cruising at that point.

Vandy would settle for a 44-33 advantage going into the final 10 minutes, a final 10 minutes that turned out to be the last of its season.

• Vanderbilt is now 34-27 all-time against Florida and 4-4 against the Gators on a neutral court. Florida is now 8-2 in the last 10 games against Vandy.

• Cambridge finished the season with 117 steals, the second-most in a single Vanderbilt season. Deborah Denton is first with 123.

• Cambridge is now eighth in Vanderbilt history with 222 career steals. 

• Vanderbilt head coach Shea Ralph (14) finished tied with Stephanie White for the third-most wins in a first season by a Vanderbilt head coach. Joe Pepper won 15 and Jim Foster and Melanie Balcomb each won 22 in their respective first campaigns.