VANDERBILT (16-6, 5-2 SEC) AT NO. 11 FLORIDA (18-4, 6-1 SEC)
Time/TV: 1 p.m./CBS
Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.
Vanderbilt 24 (No. 3 SEC)
Florida 17 (No. 2 SEC)
Line: Florida -7 (o/u 143)
Vanderbilt Players to Watch: F Jeffery Taylor, 6-7 Sr. (17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 53.1% FG); G John Jenkins, 6-4 Jr. (19.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 44.1% 3s); C Festus Ezeli, 6-11 Sr. (9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 50.7% FG). Ezeli is playing like the pre-season All-SEC center he was expected to be before missing the first month of the season. He scored 21 points in Saturday’s 84-77 win over Middle Tennessee and then scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in Tuesday’s 82-74 loss at Arkansas.
Florida Players to Watch: C Patric Young, 6-9 So. (11.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 63% FG); G Kenny Boynton, 6-2 Jr. (17.5 ppg, 2.9 apg, 44.6% 3s); G Erving Walker, 5-8 Sr. (12.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 39.8% 3s). After scoring just two points in Saturday’s win over Mississippi State, Boynton was big in Thursday’s 74-66 win over South Carolina on Thursday with a game-high 24 points.
Storylines: The Gators and Commodores go head-to-head for second place in the SEC. After Thursday’s 74-66 win over South Carolina, Florida is 1½ games behind No. 1 Kentucky. Vandy is 2½ games back at 5-2 in league play.
Keys: Florida has struggled at the foul line at times this season – shooting 67.1 percent for the season – including a 15-for-32 effort against South Carolina. Florida has won 15 of the 16 games in which they have led the at half. Jenkins has scored in double-figures in 55 consecutive games for the Commodores and 74 times in his career. He has made a 3-pointer in 42 straight games. Taylor is sixth in Vanderbilt’s all-time scoring list with 1,698 points. He trails Mike Rhodes by one point for fifth and Ronnie McMahon by 21 to move into fourth. The Gators have been winning with balance. They had three scorers reach double figures in wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina. All five Gators average double figure scoring and Mike Rosario chips in with 8.3. Florida has forced 46 turnovers in its past three games – all wins. That could be a big key against a Commodores team that commits 14 errors per game. The Gators lead the SEC in scoring (80.7), assists-to-turnover ratio (1.5-to-1), assists (16.7), 3-point percentage (40.8) and 3-pointers made (10.6 per game). Vanderbilt is third in scoring at 74.6 per game, third in field goal percentage (46.9). The Commodores are second to the Gators in 3-point percentage (39.8) and 3-pointers made (nine per game). Vandy is 4-2 in true road games this season, including impressive wins at Marquette (74-57 on Dec. 29) and Alabama (69-59 on Jan. 19). The Gators have won six straight overall. Saturday’s game will be their third straight at home and their fourth in five games at the O’Connell Center, where they have won 18 straight.
The Bottom Line: Florida has been really, really good at home, but the 36-hour turnaround from Thursday’s win over South Carolina will be difficult to overcome. Vandy went through it and didn’t perform well in a home loss to Mississippi State. This is a prime opportunity for the Commodores to steal a valuable road win.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 82, Florida 80
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 55-29