NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jerry Stackhouse was disappointed with Saturday’s result, sure.
But the first-year Vanderbilt head coach was more displeased with the way his team came out to start the game against visiting Florida.
“Great opportunity for us, great momentum from the last game and then we come out and we were just soft. In so many ways we were just soft,” Stackhouse said. “We got to find a way to get away from that disposition – have a harder, tougher mentality to start the game and once we do that then we can come out of this funk that we’re in.”
Vandy (8-13, 0-8 SEC) went nearly six minutes to begin Saturday’s affair without a made field goal. It dug itself a seven-point deficit during that span.
The final score two hours later? Florida 61, Vanderbilt 55.
“At the end of the day it looks like it’s a six-point game. But we spotted them six to eight points so that’s the game right there,” Stackhouse said. “Everything that kind of happened in the balance is a result of our lack of urgency for the first three or four minutes.”
The Commodores came into the day fresh off an encouraging performance at No. 13 Kentucky. They led for much of that contest on the road (and were even up 52-51 with 9:02 to play) before fading down the stretch.
Florida, on the other hand, came into Saturday’s game having lost three in a row while habitually surrendering big, late leads. Thus, Vandy felt like they let the Gators (13-8, 5-3 SEC) off the hook.
“We were soft on defense,” Pippen said. “In the UK game we came out and punched them in the mouth first. We were aggressive, getting stops. Defensively we started off real slow. They took advantage and started attacking us more and getting a couple of us into foul trouble and that kind of dictated the whole game.
“We should have beat them. If we would have started the game how we finished I feel like we could have beat them by 10 points.”
Vanderbilt’s slow start never really spiraled out of control in the first half – and it even rallied to trail just 26-21 at halftime. But what was in reach quickly slipped away in the early stages of the second half as Florida went on an 11-2 run in the first 3 1/2 minutes and eventually built the lead to 49-31 with 9:53 to play.
The Dores got within five twice with less than 25 seconds remaining. It was too little, too late.
“Things that we were cognizant about, we made sure that we put emphasis on before in our pregame talk about just being who we are, just doing the things that we needed to. When we go back and watch the film we’ll see it,” Stackhouse said. “Those things that we know that we need to do and that if we don’t do them bad things happen. For whatever reason we didn’t do it tonight and that cost us the game.”
Vandy’s schedule doesn’t allow any breaks this week. No. 22 LSU comes to town Wednesday and the Tigers (17-4, 8-0 SEC) have won 10 in a row.
On Saturday, the Dores travel to Mississippi State (14-7, 5-3 SEC) where the Bulldogs are 10-2 at home this season.
Two tough tests ahead for a team that by no means has backed away from a test, but is still trying to figure out all the answers.
“It’s one step at a time,” Vanderbilt redshirt-sophomore center Ejike Obinna said. “I think it’s something where everybody is working hard and everybody is putting in a lot of work. We still believe in each other and I think that’s the biggest thing at this point.
“As long as guys keep coming in and putting in work everyday we’re going to get those wins. We’re going to start winning games. But we’re very close. Very, very close.”