The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt bounces back and beats Florida at home, 88-72

After a crushing loss on the road, Vanderbilt returned home on a mission, beating Florida handily.
Ezra+Manjon+drives+to+the+basket+against+Florida+on+Saturday%2C+Feb.+25%2C+2023%2C+at+Memorial+Gymnasium.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FNarenkumar+Thirmiya%29
Narenkumar Thirmiya
Ezra Manjon drives to the basket against Florida on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, at Memorial Gymnasium. (Hustler Multimedia/Narenkumar Thirmiya)

After its five-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of LSU — a team that had previously been the losers of 14 straight — Vanderbilt (15-13, 8-7 SEC) looked to get its season back on track against Florida (14-14, 7-8 SEC) tonight. The Commodores were able to do just that, outperforming the Gators in all facets of the game to win 88-72.

In the previous matchup between the Commodores and the Gators this season, Vanderbilt also came out victorious, 88-80. Liam Robbins notched 32 points and 10 rebounds in that game in Gainesville on Feb. 11.

Robbins got the scoring started off for the Commodores tonight, making a nice move to the basket for two. Freshman Colin Smith then hit a smooth jumper, knotting the game at four apiece. Tyrin Lawrence ignited the Memorial faithful for the first time that night with a three-pointer to give Vanderbilt an 11-9 edge. Strong passing from Florida led to a wide-open three for Riley Kugel, cutting the Commodore lead to 13-12, which is where the game stood at the first media timeout.

Coming out of the break, Robbins quickly converted on two layups at the rim, giving Vanderbilt a 17-12 lead over the Gators. Florida shot three airballs in the two minutes following the first media timeout, much to the enjoyment of the Memorial crowd. Paired with an Ezra Manjon directly following the third airball, the energy in the gym was frenetic. After a three from Aleks Szymczyk, Florida cut the lead to 23-20 with 9:52 left in the opening half.

Myles Stute, who had been struggling from beyond the arc as of late, started the game hot, nailing his first two of three attempts and extending the Vanderbilt lead. Paul Lewis showed off some nice ball-handling skills, eventually creating an open lane for Quentin Millora-Brown that resulted in a monstrous slam.

Lewis got right back to work after the media timeout, hitting a mid-range jumper on the run to extend the Vanderbilt advantage to 10.

“[Lewis] might be the best shooter on this team,” Stackhouse said.

The effort of the freshman in the game continued to be critical as Smith hit a three with about three and a half minutes left, maintaining Vanderbilt’s lead.

“It’s important that we establish those younger guys,” Stackhouse said. “It ensures that we have continuity on our roster from year to year.”

With only 11 seconds to go in the half, Manjon made one of his signature quick dashes to the basket, extending the lead to 13, Vanderbilt’s largest of the night to that point. However, a buzzer-beater from Kyle Lofton cut the lead back to 10 at the conclusion of the halves. When the teams headed to the locker room, Vanderbilt led the game 46-36. Manjon and Robbins were the leading scorers of the half (both at 9) and the Commodores shot a strong 52.9% from the field as a unit.

Robbins got the second-half scoring underway, hitting an impressive, long jumper. The scores came few and far between to begin the final half, but Manjon hit a pull-up jumper to push the Commodore scoring to the half-century mark with 17 minutes to go in the game. Memorial went into pandemonium with 15:38 to go, as Manjon threw a perfectly executed lob to Lawrence, who threw it down with absolute authority.

After being down by as many as 16, Florida began to chip away at the deficit, bringing the game back within 10 with 11:16 to go. However, Vanderbilt continued to find ways to score as Trey Thomas hit a jumper from the top of the key to make the score 63-51. 

After struggling for a bit from behind the arc again, Stute had the fans screaming with jubilation after connecting on his third three of the game. Headed into a media timeout, Vanderbilt maintained a 67-56 lead with 8:19 remaining in the contest.

“I think this game just shows our resiliency,” Stute said. “This team has been knocked down a lot of times this season, and we keep finding ways to get back up.”

Thomas made a beautiful spin to the bucket to record his fifth and sixth points of the game. Although he did not light up the stat sheet, his efforts were very important in the team-leading 34 minutes he played.

Robbins and Thomas would hit back-to-back threes in the closing minutes of the game, building Vanderbilt’s lead back up to 16 and giving the Saturday evening crowd yet another reason to rejoice.

When the final buzzer sounded, Vanderbilt was victorious, beating the Gators by a score of 88-72.

“The effort and energy on the defensive end was really the difference in the game,” said Stackhouse.

Vanderbilt thoroughly out-shot Florida on the game, converting on 52.9% of its field goal attempts to the Gators’ 42.2%. Kugel had a strong day for Florida, scoring a game-leading 20 points. On Vanderbilt’s side of things, Robbins finished just shy of a double-double, scoring 18 and collecting 9 boards. He was also efficient from the field, shooting 7-11 and converting on his only three of the game.

Vanderbilt will look to continue a potential push to March when they travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on March 1 at 6 p.m. CST.

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About the Contributors
Jonah Barbin, Senior Staff Writer
Jonah Barbin (‘25) is majoring in human and organizational development and cinema and media studies. In addition to writing about sports, you can catch him acting, scouring the fantasy football waiver wire, playing golf and fantasizing about what Odell Beckham Jr.’s career would have been if the Giants never traded him. You can reach him at [email protected].
Narenkumar Thirmiya, Staff Photographer
Narenkumar Thirmiya ('24) is from Orlando, Fla., and is majoring in neuroscience and medicine, health, and society in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, he is streaming TV, playing the piano or guitar or exploring nature photography. You can reach him at [email protected].
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