NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Keyontae Johnson and Noah Locke helped Florida end its three-game losing streak.
Johnson scored 20 points and Locke added 17 as the Gators beat Vanderbilt 61-55 on Saturday night.
Florida coach Mike White said his team would have been lost without Johnson, who hit 7 of 11 from the floor and 4 of 5 from the foul line.
“I just thought Keyontae was as good as he’s played,” White said. “Offensively, defensively, you name it: energy, toughness. I think he got the last rebound of the game, which was pretty fitting.”
Florida (13-8, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) needed a win after dropping games to Mississippi State, Baylor and LSU.
“This game was real important,” Johnson said. “We tried to mainly focus on defense and we did good in the first half. Second half we slacked off just a little bit, but we managed to get big stops towards the end.”
Locke buried 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
“Everything fell our way toward the end,” Locke said. “We were trying to get back on track. Recently, we’ve been having a little bit of slippage.”
Vanderbilt (8-13, 08) suffered its 26th consecutive SEC loss, adding to the Commodores' dubious league record.
Florida took charge with a 10-0 run early against Vanderbilt, which had played well in a loss at Kentucky.
“The most that I’m disappointed by is how we started the game,” Vanderbilt Jerry Stackhouse said. “Great momentum from last game and we come out and we were just soft. In so many ways we were just soft. We’ve got to find a way to get away from that disposition.”
The Commodores committed 17 turnovers as they suffered their ninth straight loss overall.
Scotty Pippen Jr. led the Commodores with 15 points and Saben Lee added 11.
“Definitely, I feel like it’s one step forward and one foot back,” Pippen said. “We lost this game in the first couple of minutes. We started slow and although we fought at the end, it wasn’t enough.”
Florida: The Gators led most of the way against the injury-plagued Commodores.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores continue to struggle without Aaron Nesmith (foot injury) and Clevon Brown (knee). Nesmith was leading the SEC in scoring when a stress fracture knocked him out of the lineup on Jan. 11.
Vanderbilt got a roar from the crowd when it narrowed the deficit to 55-49 with just over 2 minutes left.
Lee’s layup through traffic cut the margin to 58-53 with 23.8 seconds left.
Vanderbilt honored its 1992-93 Sweet 16 team at halftime. The Commodores won their first SEC title since 1974 that year.
Eddie Fogler was named national coach of the year.
Florida hosts Georgia (12-9, 2-6) on Wednesday. Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards is coming off a 29-point, 15-rebound game against Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt hosts No. 22 LSU (17-4, 8-0), which has won 10 straight, on Wednesday.
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