'Dores Chop Down Top-Ranked Gators
Feb. 17, 2007
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Forget all that talk about the top-ranked Florida Gators rolling through the Southeastern Conference undefeated.
Derrick Byars and Shan Foster each scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt snapped the nation's longest winning streak by upsetting the Gators 83-70 after they finally fell into a hole they couldn't dig themselves out of Saturday.
If there were any doubts about whether Vanderbilt was still suffering some lingering affects from last week's loss to Tennessee in Knoxville, the scene of the Vanderbilt student body pouring onto the court to celebrate the team's 83-70 upset of No.1-ranked Florida should put them to rest.
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Florida (24-3, 11-1) had won 17 straight games and needed a victory to clinch at least a share of the SEC's Eastern Division and the overall league title. They also had won seven straight against the Commodores.
But Vanderbilt (18-8, 8-4) has been one of the country's best against ranked opponents this season. Students poured onto the court at Memorial Gym after the Commodores pulled off their first victory over a top-ranked team since Jan. 13, 1993, when they beat then-No. 1 Kentucky, and their sixth victory over a ranked team this season.
"A lot of people don't ever get the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country," Foster said. "We got the opportunity and seized the moment."
The Commodores won for the seventh time in nine games by beating the nation's best shooting team at its own game, outshooting the Gators 57.1 percent to 44 percent from the field. They took the lead in the first half and led by as much as 16 points late.
"We caught them on an afternoon where they missed shots they normally make," Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said.
Florida coach Billy Donovan tried to put the loss into perspective by pointing out his Gators, the defending national champs, had won 35 of their last 37 games and had not lost a game since Dec. 3 to Florida State. That said, he didn't want this to be the start of a trend.
"We don't want one to lead to two," Donovan said.
This was the fourth time this season the Gators trailed by double digits. They came from 18 down Wednesday night before beating Alabama.
"We never want to get down like we have been," Florida guard Lee Humphrey said. "It seems like the last few games we've gone into halftime down. It's never what we want to do. We want to stay focused and come back. Today Vandy, they kept playing well. They outplayed us the second half."
knock off a top-ranked opponent for the third
straight time in Memorial Gym.
Joakim Noah led Florida with 15, and Corey Brewer and Al Horford each had 13 as the Gators had a season-high 22 turnovers.
The Gators had been shooting 53.7 percent, but they struggled from the start when they hit only two of their first nine shots. They last led midway through the first half. 13-12, on a pair of free throws by Horford.
Vanderbilt led 35-27 at halftime, the second-fewest first-half points scored by Florida this season.
It was a fast-paced, up-and-down game from the opening tip. With 12 minutes left, Byars stole the ball and drove for the Commodores. Brewer stole it back under the Gators basket, but Florida turned it right back over.
Vandy was up 46-33 when Florida tried to make its customary run with seven straight points. Horford's two free throws pulled the Gators within 46-40 with 14:08 to go.
Foster answered with a three-point play. Taurean Green hit a 3 for Florida, and Foster hit another 3. Brewer followed with a 3 to pull within 52-46. Ted Skuchas dunked for Vandy, and the Commodores started pulling away.
"We just didn't make our shots," Brewer said. "Sometimes, that just happens. But I don't want to take anything away from Vanderbilt. They deserved to win."
The Gators never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Their frustration started bubbling over when they had a shot clock violation with 4:28 to go after passing too much looking for a good shot.
Vandy then padded the lead with a layup, then Byars added a dunk for a 76-61 lead with 3:20 left.
Donovan benched his starters with 1:26 left and the Gators trailing 83-68. He had his Gators leave the court quickly once students started pouring onto the floors. Under SEC policy, Vandy could face punishment by the league.
A handful of Vandy students sneaked into the gym before the doors officially opened, and the student section was filled soon after the gates opened. The Commodores rewarded their fans enthusiasm with their best game of the season.