Mike White has never beaten Vanderbilt in Nashville.
He didn’t do it as a player at Ole Miss. He hasn’t done it yet as the coach of the Gators men’s basketball team. His teams just always come up short.
Florida lost in the final two minutes last season. White’s team lost to the Commodores twice in Nashville in 2017, once in the regular season and again in the SEC Tournament. The year before that, UF fell to Vandy by one point.
“Not many fond memories playing at Memorial,” White said. “A lot of good teams though, it’s always a great environment. Life on the road in the SEC, take off here in a little bit. Excited for the opportunity.”
All of that can change this year. The Gators will put their four-game winning streak, their longest of the season, on the line when they face off against the Commodores on the road Wednesday at 9 p.m. The streak includes wins against Vanderbilt and Missouri at home and Alabama and LSU on the road.
The Commodores are winless in the SEC so far. They have struggled to find a consistent scoring option since guard Darius Garland went down with an injury and left the team to focus on the NBA draft.
Guard Saben Lee, Vandy’s second-leading scorer, managed just four points in 37 minutes of play against Florida on Feb. 13. Meanwhile, freshman forward Aaron Nesmith scored a season-high 26 points against UF and 24 against Auburn but has faltered in the Commodores’ last two contests, dropping 13 and 14 against Tennessee and Alabama, respectively.
“It’s the scouting report on the Commodores,” White said. “Finding Nesmith early and not losing Matt Ryan in transition. That’s all it is.”
Ryan, a redshirt junior forward, was not a problem for Florida last time it played Vanderbilt. He scored nine points on 3-of-11 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. He didn’t play well in transition against UF, but was doing well in the role earlier in the season.
Another player the Gators will want to look out for is freshman forward/center Simisola Shittu, the Commodores’ leader in rebounds (186). He didn’t do well offensively last time — five points on 2-of-5 shooting — but his 6-foot-10 frame is enough to be a threat on the defensive boards.
White said it doesn’t matter if Vanderbilt is winless in the SEC. He just wants his team to go to Nashville and collect a win on the road. If the Gators were to play for anyone, they should play for their seniors, KeVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes and Jalen Hudson, who have yet to win at Memorial Gym.
“These guys — including myself — have not won there,” he said. “That’s where our focus is. Giving ourselves a chance by playing well to maybe go steal one on the road. That’s it.”
Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida coach Mike White has never defeated Vanderbilt in Nashville in his career.