For the first time since 2007, the Florida men’s basketball team will play as the number one team in the country. After defeating the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday the Gators are still unbeaten in conference play.
Holding a team record 19 consecutive victories and a 14-0 record in the SEC, the Gators will look to make their streak an even 20 as they travel to face the Vanderbilt Commodores Tuesday night. The Memorial Gym in Nashville has never brought happiness to the Florida Gators. They are an abysmal 16-44 in that building, 7-9 under head coach Billy Donovan.
However this may not be the same caliber team head coach Kevin Stallings has had in the past at Vandy. The Commodores are currently sitting with a 15-11 record overall, and 7-7 in SEC play that puts them in a tie for fourth with six other teams in the conference. This will be the second year in a row that these teams will only meet once in the regular season, and the Gators plan to repeat the success of their 26 point victory in Gainesville.
Although the Commodores have lost three of their last five, they have won two of their last three, with their latest being a 67-59 win over the same Auburn Tigers team that came within a couple shots of upsetting the Gators. Despite their average record, Vanderbilt is currently 12-5 on their home court and the Gators will be tested.
The Commodores currently rank 2nd in the SEC in their three point defense, giving up just 29 percent a game, and when that same defense allows just 40 percent from the floor (5th in the SEC) the Gators will need to be sound offensively to put up points. On offense, the Commodores are led by senior forward Rod Odom who averages just over 14 points per game and Gators head coach Billy Donovan talked about the kind of player he is.
“He’s as versatile as any player in our league offensively. Odom has the versatility where they can slide him to the three and four, he shoots threes, and he can post and do it off the bounce.”
The problem for Vanderbilt is they rank next to last in the SEC in scoring, averaging just 66.5 points per game. This is where the Gators have the advantage as they lead the SEC allowing just 58 points per game.
Offensively, the Gators will continue to look for the same guys that have gotten the job done all year. Senior Scottie Wilbekin finds himself second on the team averaging just under 14 points per game, upping that on Saturday as he scored 18 against the Rebels. Sophomore shooting guard Michael Frazier II is slowly getting into a rhythm after injuring his wrist against Auburn; he rebounded to shoot 5-10 from beyond the arc against Ole Miss.
The leading scorer on this Gator team is senior Casey Prather who is averaging 15 points per game. Despite some nagging ankle injuries and a couple “off” games, if Prather gets it going this team will be tough to beat.
Vandy does have success facing number one teams; they have knocked off a few in the past and will look to do the same on Tuesday.
The Gators will be looking to turn around their recent misfortunes in Nashville Tuesday night and maintain their current success, but Frazier II says this team is focused on the long term goal and the success the future could bring.
“We just want to be the number one country at the end of the season, right now it’s all good, but we have to continue to get better and follow along with the same process we have been,” he said.
The Gators may be without freshman Kasey Hill for a third straight game as he is listed as doubtful with that nagging groin injury. However one thing is for sure Tuesday night, with a victory over the Commodores the Gators would clinch at least a share of the SEC crown for the second straight season.
You can hear all the action of Tuesday’s game on our sister station 103.7 The Gator with coverage starting at 6:25 followed by tip at 7.
For more pre-game comments from Gators head coach Billy Donovan and sophomore shooting guard Michael Frazier II click on the links below: