Kedren Johnson and some stingy defense allowed Vanderbilt to hang tough against No. 11 Florida.
But a six-minute setback doomed the Commodores in a 66-40 loss to the Gators on the road Wednesday night. An eight-point deficit quickly escalated to 24 as Florida went on a 19-3 run, which included a technical foul on freshman Sheldon Jeter.
Vanderbilt scored 40 points or fewer for the third time this season and had its three-game win streak snapped. Florida clinched the outright regular-season Southeastern Conference championship on senior night.
The Gators (24-5, 14-3) mustered only 24 points in the first half. Still, they led by 10 as the Commodores scored only 14 points before intermission.
Johnson finished with 15 points, including eight in the last 5:32 after Vanderbilt went scoreless for more than eight minutes. Out of the break, he delivered Vanderbilt’s first five points, but didn’t score the rest of the way.
Hanging around in the second half, the Commodores (13-16, 7-10) pulled with seven and trailed just 37-29 after two free throws by Jeter with 12:19 left. Over the next six minutes, Florida ran away with a 19-3 run. It started with back-to-back 3-pointers by Michael Frazier and Kenny Boynton. After a jumper by Jeter, Eric Murphy responded with the layup.
Then the game quickly got out of hand. Jeter drove the lane for a layup but he was called for a charge and the basket was waved off. Jeter immediately disapproved of the call. He angrily jumped up and down in front of the referee, who whistled Jeter for a technical foul. Boynton made both free throws and Casey Prather hit a layup for a four-point possession. A couple minutes later, Scottie Wilbekin capped off the run with an uncontested 3-pointer for a 56-32 lead with 6:45 left.
The Gators also took advantage of another lengthy drought by the Commodores. Josh Henderson’s putback with 4:35 was the team’s first field goal in more than six minutes.
Florida entered with the third-best scoring defense in the country and held an opponent to 40 points or less for the fourth time this season. The Commodores shot just 26.9 percent (14-of-52) from the field and 16.7 percent (4-of-24) from 3-point range.
Johnson was the only Vanderbilt player to score in double figures. Dai-Jon Parker added seven points. Starters Rod Odom and Kevin Bright combined for just four points. Odom scored four points and was 1-of-8 from 3-point range. Bright, the SEC freshman of the week, was held scoreless and missed all five 3-pointers.
Boynton scored 15 points and Patric Young had 14 for Florida, which will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
The Commodores close the regular season against South Carolina on Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).