Florida knocks off Vanderbilt

Sophomore guard Tre Mann scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and the fifth-seeded Gators came from behind to defeat the 13th-seed Commodores in second-round action of the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Mann went seven of 12 from the floor and led his team with seven rebounds and six assists. He also made one of two free throws with 28 seconds left to give UF a two-possession lead, with Tyree Appleby icing matters with two more free throws with 12.8 seconds to go after the Florida defense held.

After allowing Vandy to erase a 12-point halftime lead and twice go up by one in the second period, the Gators retook the lead with 7:13 to go and never gave it back, defending the Commodores to one of their last 12 from the floor, including misses on their final six shots. Junior shooting guard Noah Locke had 13 points, all but two in the first half, while Appleby, who was benched from the starting lineup for being late for the morning shoot-around (along with sophomore guard Scottie Lewis) for the morning shoot-around, had 12 points and four assists in reserve duty. 

UF was up just two in the late first half, 22-20, when it took off on a 12-2 run to end the period, including the final eight points. The last half of that run came courtesy of Locke, who took a pair of perfect passes on drive-and-kicks from Mann and dropped back-to-back 3-pointers that sent their team to the locker room up by a dozen.

Florida shot 54 percent for the half and defended Vandy at 32 percent, including just 3-for-15 from the arc. The UF lead was 10 midway through the second half when the Commodores scored 11 straight points, including back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers by backup guard Trey Thomas to put Vandy ahead by a point at 55-54. The margin was still one, 57-56, when Appleby and Mann each hit a free throws on consecutive possessions to give the Gators a three-point lead.

After two free throws by Scottie Pippin Jr. (23 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists) dropped a couple free throws, the Gators scored back-to-back baskets, on a scooping layup from Mann, then a Mann-to-Anthony Duruji lob dunk to go ahead by five with 4:51 to go. Vandy got it to one once more, 64-63 with 1:40 left, but Mann made a pull-up 17-footer late in the shot clock after a couple offensive rebounds and Florida finished from there. 

The two-game bleeding has stopped with a rare third win against the same opponent in a season (the first such sweep since beating Tennessee and Kentucky three times in 2014). The Gators, four days removed from a forgettable performance across the state get a chance at redemption against that same opponent. Read on.