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Thursday, October 28, 2021
<p>Andrew Nembhard</p>

Andrew Nembhard

The Florida men’s basketball team defeated Vanderbilt on Saturday 61-55 in Nashville, Tennessee, for its second road win of the season.

It was anything but pretty in an SEC matchup where both teams entered struggling in more ways than one.

Vanderbilt entered the game 0-7 against SEC opponents and on an eight-game losing streak while UF had dropped its last three games. Both teams lived up to their respective reputations to start.

In the first half, neither team could buy a bucket. Vanderbilt (8-13, 0-8) shot a horrific 2 for 12 from three-point range as well as 7 of 24 from the field.

Somehow, the Commodores found themselves only down by five with a score of 26-21 at halftime.

Florida (13-8, 5-3) struggled mightily to create anything that resembled an efficient offense to start. UF was 3 for 14 from behind the arc and 10 for 29 from the field in the first half.

Forward Keyontae Johnson was the only bright spot in the game from an offensive standpoint in the first 20 minutes of play.

The sophomore started the game 4 of 4 with 12 points, nailed both of his three-point attempts and grabbed five boards. The next leading scorer for UF was forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. at the end of the half with a mere five points.

After recent losses, White has attributed his team’s latest struggles to poor defense and even went as far as to call his team an all-time worst of his on that side of the court.

“I've never had a team that defended this poorly,” White said at a media availability on Friday.

The Gators’ recent defensive lapses were coming hand-in-hand with a surge offensively.

On Saturday, that just wasn’t the case as the Gators couldn’t find the bottom of the net for much of the night.

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Vanderbilt, however, had demons of its own that were far more problematic.

In the second half, Vanderbilt’s offense remained stagnant. The Commodores finished the game shooting 27 percent from three-point range and accumulated 17 turnovers.

Vanderbilt was down by as much as 18 at one point but stormed back to cut it to a five-point deficit with 21 seconds to go thanks to the efforts of guard Scottie Pippen Jr. who finished with 15 points, 14 of which coming in the second half.

UF’s shooters found their shot in the second half and ultimately kept the game out of reach for Vanderbilt.

Guard Noah Locke, who started 1 for 4 from three-point range, hit his first three attempts from behind the arc out of halftime and finished with 17 points behind five three-pointers.

Johnson led the team with 20 points and seven rebounds when it was all said and done.

The win is coming at the end of a week where White found himself under some criticism for the team’s inability to eclipse high expectations, but the fifth-year coach hasn’t paid much mind to it.

“I don’t read any of it,” White said on Friday. “I don’t care what anyone writes, says, at all.”

Florida was able to stop the bleeding against Vanderbilt and will host the Georgia Bulldogs (12-9, 2-6) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Follow Joseph on Twitter @JSalvadorSports and contact him at jsalvador@alligator.org.

Andrew Nembhard

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