Top-25 foes collide in Gainesville this ranked Florida Gators play host to the 25th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores in an SEC affair at the O'Connell Center.
Billy Donovan's Gators are peaking at the right time. Florida enters this contest with a six-game win streak in tow and moved to 6-1 in conference play with a 74-66 victory over South Carolina on Thursday. The win was also the 18th straight at the O'Connell Center, tied for the fourth longest streak in program history.
Kevin Stallings' Commodores are just a game behind the Gators in the SEC, following Tuesday's 82-74 loss at Arkansas. Vanderbilt has split its last four games and is 16-6 overall on the year.
This represents the 123rd meeting in this longstanding series. Vanderbilt holds a narrow 63-59 series advantage. These two teams have traded sweeps in the season series in each of the last three years. Florida is 12-3 against Vanderbilt at home under Donovan.
The Commodores have a fighting chance in any game thanks to the dynamic duo of John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor. Jenkins leads the SEC in scoring at 19.9 ppg and is shooting .481 from the floor overall, including 82-of-186 from three- point range. Taylor is fourth in the conference in scoring at 17.4 ppg and can also hit the long ball at a .463 clip (37-of-80). Scoring depth can be found in the form of Lance Goulbourne (9.6 ppg), Brad Tinsley (9.4 ppg) and Festus Ezeli (9.0 ppg).
Vanderbilt shot a solid 50 percent from the floor at Arkansas, but fell victim to the Razorbacks' hot shooting in the second half (6-of-12 from three-point range) in an eight-point loss. Jenkins hit four three-pointers himself and was right on his season averaging with a game-high 19 points. Taylor poured in 18 points, Ezeli had 14 and Steve Tchiengang chipped in 10 in the loss.
One of the top offensive teams in the nation, Florida has a number of scoring options at its disposal, leading to an impressive 80.4 ppg. The Gators rely heavily on its long range acumen, delivering on 40 percent from behind the arc. Kenny Boynton plays a big role in that regard, averaging 17.5 ppg , fueled by a .438 clip from three-point range (74-of-169). Perimeter help comes in the form of Bradley Beal (14.2 ppg) and Erving Walker (12.7 ppg), who also serves as the team's primary distributor (5.1 apg). Center Patric Young (11.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and Erik Murphy (10.3 ppg) provide the frontcourt balance.
The Gators jumped all over the Gamecocks early, building a 17-point lead in the first half, but South Carolina battled back to trail by only nine at the break. UF was able to hold off USC however, to remain unbeaten at home. The Gators knocked down a season-high 23 free-throws in the win. Boynton led the way 24 points, while Beal recorded his fourth career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Walker tacked on 14 points and dished out seven assists. The team got the win despite shooting under 40 percent from the floor and a season-low .250 from three-point range.