By Dory LeBlanc
It wasn't pretty, but the No. 1 Gators hung on to defeat Vanderbilt 57-54, narrowly escaping the same fate that Florida met in Nashville back in 2007 when they were top-ranked team in the country and fell to the Commodores 61-58.
A poor offensive showing (Florida shot 40% from the field) forced the Gators to rely on their defense through much of the contest, but one aspect of Vandy's game Florida struggled to contain was the three-point shooting ability of Rod Odom.
The Vanderbilt forward led the 'Dores in scoring with 12 points - nine of them coming from behing the arc.
The Gators' scoring efforts were lead by Dorian Finney-Smith who sunk three three's of his own and got out of the funk he's been in since January. The sophomore ended his night with 19 points, nine rebounds, and an assist while Patric Young was right behind him with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Scottie Wilbekin, the leader in heart and hustle for the past two weeks, was quiet offensively at Memorial Gym, managing only seven points and five assists with one steal. However, in the closing minutes, Wilbekin stepped his game up as he commanded his team to hold on and limit the mistakes that had plagued them for much of the night.
Will Yeguete fouled out with a minute to go after notching two baskets, Plant High's Michael Frazier II nailed two three's for nine points total, and DeVon Walker added another nine on the night.
The win marks the Gators' 20th-straight this season and gave Florida a share of the SEC title, Billy Donovan's sixth conference title - and third in the past four years. The Gators can win the South Eastern Conference outright with Arkansas defeating Kentucky on Thursday, or by beating LSU Saturday in Gainesville.
Up next: Florida hosts the Tigers at the O'Connell Center at 4:00pm. Action starts on 1250am WHNZ at 3:25 with the Gators pre-game show.