Bounce-Back for the Boys

Vandy gashes Gators for dominant win

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt bounced back in an impressive way Saturday, beating Florida 88-72 at Memorial Gymnasium to get back in the win column after a disappointing trip to LSU on Wednesday.

Vandy led for the final 36:24 of the evening en route to its 16th victory of the season and second straight over the Gators.

“I thought our guys came out and really set the tone early on—on both ends of the floor,” Vandy head coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “I thought we were executing really good offensively to start the game. Defensively we took it up another notch in the second half, and I thought we were pretty good early on. They just made some tough shots.

“We defending them well and were able to get some separation in the second half.”

The Commodores (16-13, 9-7 SEC) saw a five-game winning streak snapped at LSU, a demoralizing defeat by the league’s last-place squad. But they returned to form on their home court.

Liam Robbins had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead the Dores. Ezra Manjon had 15 points and seven rebounds, Tyrin Lawrence scored 13 to go along with seven rebounds, and Colin Smith, Trey Thomas and Myles Stute each had 11.

Vanderbilt now heads to Kentucky (20-9, 11-5) for its final regular-season road game at 6 p.m. CT Wednesday.

“I think it just showed a lot of resiliency,” Stute said of Saturday’s win. “We’ve been knocked down a few times this season, and I think we’ve always came out together as a group and just had the mentality to come out punching every time.

“We never really took a step back. After that loss we came together, and I think that speaks volumes to the culture of our team.”

Vanderbilt began to take control starting at the 12:14 mark, after a Manjon 3 that put the Commodores ahead 20-12. That lead was matched three minutes later when Paul Lewis grabbed an offensive rebound and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key making it 29-21.

Lewis’ jumper with 6:14 to play put Vandy up 10 at 35-25. A Lawrence 3 soon allowed the home team to enjoy a 43-32 advantage.

Manjon, with a layup, provided the largest lead of the half at 46-33 before the Commodores had to settle for a 46-36 score at the break.

Vandy shot a smoking 52.9 percent from the field, made seven 3-pointers and had 13 second-chance points and 16 points in the paint during its impressive first half. Eight Commodores scored, and five Dores connected on a triple.

“I just think as a team we moved the ball around really, really well today. It was popping. It was almost like hot potato in certain instances,” Stute said. “So it felt really, really good to see that and get some ball movement and a lot of guys touch it.”

Vanderbilt, generally, struggled to pull too far away from the visitors in the second half. The lead shrank to nine at one point and never extended to greater than 16.

Thomas put the game to rest at the 3:13 mark with a left-side 3, putting Vandy up 81-65.

Riley Kugel led Florida (14-15, 7-9) with 17 points.

“Now we’re focused on Kentucky, going into a tough environment against a team that’s playing well,” Stackhouse said. “But I’m confident in my group that we can go in there and get another one and hopefully get back home and close out our season the right way in front of our fans, who have been unbelievable. Tremendous atmosphere in here today, and hopefully we can give it back to them one more time.”

  • Robbins now has 82 blocks this season, the third-most blocks in a single Vanderbilt season. Luke Kornet (84) is second and Festus Ezeli (87) is first.
  • The Commodores are now 12-3 this season when leading at halftime, 11-2 when scoring at least 75 points and 13-6 when shooting better than 40 percent.
  • The last Vanderbilt team to win at least nine conference games was the 2016-17 squad that won 10.
  • Vanderbilt is now 73-73 all time against Florida and 45-20 in the series in home games. Vandy last won back-to-back games against the Gators when it won three straight in 2017.
  • Attendance on Saturday was announced as 10,133.
  • Vanderbilt has played in front of an average of 7,981 fans in 16 home games this season compared to an average of 6,539 last season in 19 homes games.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.