Commodores break away early, roll past Gators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores flipped the calendar and have forgotten all about January, right along with their seven-game skid.

James Siakam scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked five shots as Vanderbilt snapped that Southeastern Conference skid by beating Florida 67-61 Tuesday night.

“Undefeated for February,” Vanderbilt freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV said. “I don’t even know what happened in January.”

The Commodores (12-10, 2-7) got their first win since Jan. 6, opening the game by scoring the first 15 points and they never trailed. They held off Florida down the stretch, outrebounding them 42-26 and outshooting the Gators at the free throw line where they hit 18 of 24 in the second half alone.

siakam block

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he was happy for his Commodores who had kept working and come so close losing five of those seven games by single digits with five losses on the road.

“I’m happy they get to experience this again, and obviously it’s been too long coming as far as we’re concerned,” Stallings said. “To their credit, their attitude’s been great, their efforts have been really, really good almost all the time.”

Riley LaChance scored 15 points for Vanderbilt, and Damian Jones added 13. Baldwin finished with 11.

The Gators (12-10, 5-4) now have lost four of their last six in a season much different from a year ago when they went to the Final Four and were perfect in league play.

“Sometimes it takes going through a season like this to understand how far we have to go as a team and how far they have to go as individuals,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Michael Frazier II scored a game-high 21 points for Florida, and Eli Carter added 12.

Vanderbilt led 31-23 at halftime. Frazier, scoring 14 of his points in the second half, kept the Gators close, and they got within three a couple times, the last when Carter followed his 3-pointer with a jumper to get within 54-51 with 6:52 left. LaChance hit his fourth 3-pointer, and Baldwin added three free throws to push the lead back out.

“We just didn’t have it tonight, and I don’t know why,” Donovan said. “If I could know the answer to that, it’d be a lot easier.”

Vanderbilt: The Commodores hit more free throws in the second half than Florida attempted the whole game (13 of 16). Vanderbilt wound up 29 of 42 at the line. …. Vanderbilt’s 15-point lead at the start was its biggest since the Commodores’ last win when they were up 19 against Auburn on Jan. 6. … Siakam tied his career-high with his five blocks. Vandy had a 9-2 edge in blocks.

Florida: Dorian Finney-Smith came in as the Gators’ leading scorer. He fouled out for the third time this season, this time with 8:53 left. He finished with only four points, well below his average of 13.4 points per game. … The Gators hit only two of their final 10 shots.

Vanderbilt’s opening run took advantage of the Gators missing their first nine shots. Then Florida scored its first bucket on a layup by Alex Murphy, and the Gators wound up scoring 10 straight.

Stallings got the more assertive Jones he wanted after a quick chat in his office Tuesday with the preseason All-SEC player. “He keeps playing like that, that 13 and 7 will turn into 20 and 10 and that’s what we need,” Stallings said. “We need him to play like a first-team all-league player if we’re going to have a chance.”

Vanderbilt hosts South Carolina on Saturday. Florida hosts top-ranked Kentucky on Saturday night.