No. 24 Florida stacks up with Vandy with Jerry Stackhouse fighting for job

No. 24 Florida continues pushing for a top four finish in the Southeastern Conference when the Gators roll out the welcome mats for struggling Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.The Gators (18-8, 8-5 SEC) couldn’t hold onto a late lead in regulation and then missed the attempted game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of their 98-93 overtime loss to No. 13 Alabama Wednesday night. Florida is tied with Kentucky for fifth place in the standings with five games remaining.The top four teams in the final regular-season standings earn byes to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament next month in Nashville, Tenn.Gators coach Todd Golden expressed disappointment but sensed some morale victories in the loss to the league-leading Crimson Tide.”For the majority of the game, we played pretty well,” he said. “To come in here against a top-5 team analytically and to be in the lead for 30 minutes, I think, says a lot about the growth of our program and where we’ve come over the last couple months. We’re playing like one of the best teams in America right now.”Walter Clayton Jr., the SEC’s No. 4 scorer, led the Gators with 27 points and will be asked to carry the load against the Commodores.The bigger worry against Vanderbilt might be gaining control on the interior.Bama’s Grant Nelson had 22 points and Aaron Estrada scored 20 and dominated the boards 54-44 though the Gators are statistically the league’s top rebounding team and the Tide No. 3.”The fact that we got outrebounded in this game is obviously disappointing.,” Golden said.Despite the loss, only the second in the last nine outings for the Gators, Golden said that he is “excited” to get back to work with his team.

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