Florida will attempt to break a two-game losing streak and keep its fading NCAA Tournament hopes alive when it hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday in Southeastern Conference play in Gainesville, Fla.
The Gators (13-11, 6-5 SEC) have seen their stout defense slip during the two-game skid. Florida allowed a season-high 97 points and 15 3-pointers in a 97-69 loss at No. 3 Alabama on Wednesday. In the back-to-back losses to Kentucky and the Crimson Tide, both on the road, Florida allowed an average of 84.5 points and 44.4 percent shooting (20 of 45) from 3-point range.
“Don’t anticipate it being a trend,” Gators coach Todd Golden said of the defensive slippage. “We’ll get back to being ourselves that way. Hopefully being on our home floor we will be a little more comfortable in that regard. I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it but we’re definitely focusing on it moving forward.”
Vanderbilt (12-12, 5-6) has won two straight and is coming off a 66-65 upset of No. 6 Tennessee at home on Wednesday, decided by a corner 3-pointer from guard Tyrin Lawrence at the buzzer.
“A win like this could spur us on,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “Now we got to validate it. We got to go on the road into a hostile environment and try to bring this same type of energy.”
The game will pit two of the top shot-blockers in the SEC in Florida center Colin Castleton and Vanderbilt center Liam Robbins, with both averaging 3.0 rejections per game.
Castleton is averaging 24.7 points and 9.0 rebounds over his last three games and is one block away from passing Al Horford (189 career blocks) for third on Florida’s all-time leaderboard.
Castleton’s 73 blocks on the season are 23 shy of the Gators’ single-season record set by Dwayne Schintzius (96) in 1986-87.
“Hopefully we can make a run in the postseason because that will help it a lot, obviously,” Castleton said. “If we can win games, that will figure itself out. But I’m not too focused on it. I just want to win.”
Florida has won nine straight against Vanderbilt in the series. The Commodores last beat the Gators on Feb. 17, 2018, winning 71-68 at home.
–Field Level Media