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Vandy breaks two-game SEC skid

1/17/2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Matt Freije snapped out of his slump
after spending a few hours with Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.

Corey Smith just needed to be slammed to the floor to inspire
his best game of the season.

Freije scored 23 points, Mario Moore added 21 and No. 23
Vanderbilt ended a two-game losing skid by beating 15th-ranked
Florida 86-72 Saturday night.

"We needed something good to happen," Stallings said of a team
that nearly ruined the best start in school history by losing at
Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Gators (11-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) came in with a
six-game winning streak and were looking to start SEC play 3-0 for
the third consecutive year. They had every reason to be confident,
too, because they had won five straight against the Commodores.

But Vanderbilt (13-2, 2-2) apparently just needed to return
home, where its first sellout crowd of the season was waiting. The
Commodores kept the Gators from becoming too comfortable in a gym
where they had won three straight.

Vanderbilt fans poured onto the court after the final buzzer and
even shredded an alligator doll in celebration. Florida coach Billy
Donovan said his young Gators must learn how to play on the road.

"It was a great crowd because Vanderbilt played great,"
Donovan said. "They gave them something to cheer about for 40
minutes."

Moore made five of six 3-pointers as Vandy hit 10 of 15 3s and
forced Florida into a season-high 24 turnovers, which the
Commodores turned into easy layups and dunks. Vandy committed only
five of its 13 turnovers in the second half and outshot the Gators
52.7 percent (29-of-55) to 51.2 percent (22-of-43).

Matt Walsh led the Gators with 16 points, followed by David Lee
with 15.

Freije, the SEC's preseason player of the year, set the tone
early for Vanderbilt. He snapped out of his slump by scoring as
many points in the first half (15) as he had in any of the previous
six games, and he credited time spent with Stallings on Thursday
for settling him down.

"We just sat down and talked, made sure we were on the same
page. Obviously, it worked. Maybe I should be spending a lot more
time with him," Freije said.

While Freije got the Commodores going, it was Smith who took
over after Walsh fouled him and knocked him to the floor as he went
to the basket early in the second half. Smith, who had to be
restrained by an assistant coach when he stood up, said he was
upset Walsh didn't offer him a hand up.

"When he walked off, I took that personally. I wanted to let
him know I wasn't going to take it," said Smith, who scored 12 of
his season-high 14 points after the hard foul.

Walsh said he didn't mean to hurt Smith.

"I just wanted to play hard and get my team going. When you're
on the road in a hostile environment, there are no easy buckets on
both sides," Walsh said.

Florida led 40-34 when Vandy took control for good with an 18-4
run started by Freije's three-point play.

Then Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner, then
stole the ball and passed to Moore, who was fouled and hit both
free throws for a 45-44 lead -- Vandy's first lead since 29-28 in
the first half.

Smith came up with another steal, and Russell Lakey finished the
fast break with a layup. Smith scored again with a three-point
play, and Dawid Przybyszewski's one-hander capped the spurt for a
52-44 lead with 12:20 left.

Smith also had a team-high seven rebounds.

"It was the Corey Smith show," Freije said.

Vanderbilt eventually led by as many as 19 points, 81-62, on a
pair of free throws by Freije with 2:25 to go.

Freije scored seven in an 11-0 run, including a pair of 3s, and
Moore's 3-pointer put Vanderbilt up 29-20 with 4:57 remaining in
the first half. The Gators rallied for a 32-31 lead with their own
11-0 spurt.

Anthony Roberson finished with 13 points for Florida, and Chris
Richard had 12.