NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith scored 19 points off the bench, including a clutch 3-pointer with 30.6 seconds remaining, lifting No. 1 Florida to a 57-54 win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night at Memorial Gymnasium.
Florida (26-6, 15-0 SEC) won its 20th straight game and clinched a share of the Southeastern Conference title. Senior center Patric Young added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Gators.
Senior forward Rod Odom led Vanderbilt (15-12, 7-8 SEC) with 12 points, with guard Dai-Jon Parker adding 11 points for the Commodores.
After Vanderbilt point guard Kyle Fuller made two free-throws to cut Florida’s lead to 54-52, the Gators turned to Finney-Smith with the shot clock winding down. Finney-Smith answered with a 21-footer from the left side, extending Florida’s lead to 57-52.
A Fuller layup with 18.7 seconds left cut Florida’s lead to 57-54, and Gators senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin missed the front end of a one-and-one with 10.0 seconds remaining. Out of a timeout, Fuller missed a game-tying 3-point attempt that would have sent the game to overtime.
The Gators attacked Vanderbilt inside early, with Young scoring six of Florida’s first nine points. Down 11-9, Florida went on a 13-0 run, fueled by its press and some timely 3-pointers from sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Senior forward Casey Prather had a steal and breakway dunk on the press to put Florida up 13-11. After a Young putback extended the Gators’ lead to 16-11, Frazier followed with back-to-back 3-pointers give Florida a 22-11 lead.
Down 26-16, Vanderbilt responded with a 6-0 run, with a 3-pointer from forward Shelby Moats cutting Florida’s lead to 26-22. But Florida sophomore guard DeVon Walker responded with a 3-pointer to extend the Gators’ lead back to 29-22.
After a 3-pointer from Parker cut Florida’s lead to 30-25 with 7.9 seconds remaining in the first half, Wilbekin banked in a fall-away mid-range jumper, putting Florida up 32-25. It was Florida’s first halftime lead since Feb. 1 against Texas A&M.
The Gators scored 10 first-half points off Vanderbilt’s 11 turnovers. But the Commodores stayed in the game by going 4 of 9 from 3-point range in the first half.
NOTES: Florida freshman PG Kasey Hill sat out his third straight game with a groin strain. … Florida entered the game No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time since the week of Feb. 12, 2007. … Vanderbilt entered its matchup with Florida 8-16 against No. 1 teams, which included an 83-70 win at Memorial Gym against No. 1 Florida on Feb. 17, 2007. … With four 3-pointers in the first half, Vanderbilt extended its streak of at least one 3-pointer made in a game to 892 straight games.
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