Florida began its run toward a share of the Southeastern Conference title by beating Vanderbilt in early February. The Gators may own it outright by the time they take the floor Saturday night.
Conference scoring leader John Jenkins and the 21st-ranked Commodores look to play spoiler when they host No. 14 Florida.The Gators, unranked and coming off a disappointing loss at Mississippi State heading into the Feb. 1 matchup, knocked off the then-No. 23 Commodores 65-61 in overtime. That began a six-game winning streak for Florida (23-6, 12-3), which fell at then-No. 22 Kentucky last Saturday before clinching a share of the conference crown Tuesday by routing Alabama 78-51.Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin each scored 19 points each to lead the Gators to their fifth SEC title in school history. Florida will win the crown outright if Georgia beats Alabama earlier on Saturday."There hasn't been a lot of SEC championships in Florida's basketball history," coach Billy Donovan said. "For Chandler and Alex (Tyus) and Vernon to have a piece of that -- and not only have a piece of that, but to play the way they did (Tuesday) -- I'm just so happy for them. I didn't know three or four years ago if a day like a today was possible for some of these guys."Erving Walker, averaging a team-high 14.4 points this season, scored only eight.Kenny Boynton added 14 points, and it was his play in the last meeting against Vanderbilt which helped Florida begin its run.Boynton's 3-pointer with 1:04 remaining in overtime put the Gators ahead for good. However, Boynton admitted later to committing a foul on Jenkins when he attempted a 3-pointer which would have put Vanderbilt ahead with less than a minute left.Jenkins scored a game-high 22 points, but his final shot was an air ball when no foul was called."I'm pretty sure there was a reason there was an air ball," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said following the loss. "I'm not saying our guys shot an air ball. I think there might have been a reason."The Commodores (21-8, 9-6) would go on to win five straight after the defeat, but have cooled off. losing two of their last three. Vanderbilt fell 68-66 to No. 20 Kentucky on Tuesday as its second-half comeback came up short.Festus Ezeli scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Jenkins added 16 points. Ezeli narrowly missed tying his career high of 24 points set Dec. 4 against Belmont. Jenkins is averaging 19.4 points per game, but he's averaged just 14.7 over his last three."We had some key turnovers that can't happen at the end of the game," Ezeli said. "We need to be better."Vanderbilt has been inconsistent over its last three contests. It routed LSU 90-69 last Saturday, which followed a dismal 60-51 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 22. The 51 points were a season low, and another lackluster performance may make things difficult against the Gators -- Florida ranks second in the SEC allowing 61.9 points per game.The Commodores have won three of the last four meetings in Nashville.