In a battle between the #5 and the #12 seed, the 14-8 Florida Gators topped 9-16 Vanderbilt in the second round of the 2021 SEC Tournament, 69-63.
At the tip-off, Florida went with a new look with forward Samson Ruzhentsev starting, as both Tyree Appleby and Scottie Lewis had been late to the team shootaround before the game. Both Lewis and Appleby both began the game on the bench as punishment for being late, thrusting Ruzhentsev into a larger role throughout the game.
In his first contest back from a migraine, guard Tre Mann showed off his NBA potential in a duel with Scottie Pippen Jr., one that was back and forth for the entire afternoon.
Mann finished the game with 22 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, carrying the Gators despite a valiant comeback effort from Vanderbilt.
Toward the end of the first half, Florida pulled off an 8-0 run, widening the gap to 12 points moving into the half.
With a variety of defensive looks, the Gators’ goal was to limit Vanderbilt’s shooters, causing the ball to be moved around the court before a shot being taken.
For 20 minutes, the defense worked wonders for the Gators, who pride themselves on that end of the floor. White used a mix of half and full-court pressure, causing Vandy to adjust their offensive gameplan.
Florida led the Commodores 34-22 at the break, a lead that would be squandered in the 2nd half.
Vanderbilt’s three-point shooting began to heat up, cutting the UF lead to only two by the 9:06 mark in the second half.
With a quick 11-0 run, Vanderbilt took the lead with 8:33 remaining in the second half. Florida retook the lead with 6:20 remaining, holding it until the final buzzer in which the Gators came out victorious.
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Despite the different defensive looks, Pippen still worked his magic to find a way to score against the Florida Gators defense.
Pippen Jr., who had 32 points against the Gators in January, had another special outing in the third meeting between UF and Vanderbilt this season. The son of NBA great Scottie Pippen was working his magic on the offensive end, getting to the free-throw line on multiple occasions.
It is no question that Pippen Jr. is an elite free throw shooter, as he did not miss in 25 attempts throughout the SEC tournament. Vanderbilt’s best tallied 23 points, four assists, and three rebounds in the loss, on par with Mann’s stat line from Florida.
Moving forward, the Florida Gators will find themselves in a rematch with the Tennessee Volunteers, who topped Florida last Sunday. Mann was out for the last game against Tennessee, so it will be a complete reset of what happened last Sunday in a matchup between SEC East foes.