After its winning streak was snapped at five games, Vanderbilt will be out to regroup when it hosts Florida on Saturday evening in Nashville, Tenn.
Coming off an upset loss to Southeastern Conference cellar-dweller LSU, the Commodores (15-13, 8-7) are looking for their first sweep of the Gators (14-14, 7-8) since beating them five times in a row in 2016 and 2017, capped by a 72-62 overtime win in the 2017 conference tournament.
They won the first meeting this season, 88-80 in Gainesville on Feb. 11.
Commodore coach Jerry Stackhouse called Wednesday’s 84-77 loss at LSU disappointing but “not the end of the world.”
“We’ve had some tough losses and disappointing losses,” Stackhouse said. “Our guys are resilient and they’ve found a way to bounce back.”
The Commodores will have an advantage up front with Liam Robbins. The 7-footer has averaged 22.7 points and 10.3 rebounds over the past six outings and is coming off a 23-point, 11-rebound performance against LSU that was just one blocked shot from a rare triple-double.
The Gators are vulnerable in the middle without Colin Castleton, who is out for the season with a broken hand. He had 25 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting with the Commodores.
Florida has turned to senior Jason Jitoboh and freshman Aleks Szymczyk in the two games since Castleton’s injury. They combined to account for 20 points and 12 rebounds in the losses to Arkansas and Kentucky. Castleton averaged 16.0 points and 7.7 rebounds before his injury.
Gators coach Todd Golden, however, said he was encouraged by what he saw in Wednesday’s 82-74 loss to Kentucky. Freshman Riley Kugel scored a career-high 24 points.
The Gators shot 50 percent overall and 40 percent from 3-point range while losing only 10 turnovers.
“If we can build on that and find a way to get a little more grittier on the glass,” Golden said, “we can win any of these three games that remain on our schedule.”
After Vandy, Florida is at Georgia and finishes the regular season at home against LSU. Vanderbilt plays at Kentucky and against Mississippi State at home next week.
–Field Level Media