Vanderbilt Pushes No. 7 Florida To The Limit; Florida Wins 77-74 In OT 2/22/03

Florida's freshmen phenoms hit all the big shots as the No. 7 Gators hung on to defeat Vanderbilt 77-74 in overtime Saturday night in Memorial Gym.

With four seconds remaining in regulation, Florida's Anthony Roberson knocked down a runner in the lane to tie the game at 66. Then in overtime, a Russell Lakey layup gave the Commodores the lead with 34 seconds to go. Then Matt Walsh drove the lane and hit the game-winning shot with 18 seconds left.

Vanderbilt was led by junior Matt Freije, who netted 24 points on the night.

The game began very sluggish for both teams. After four minutes of play, only five points were on the scoreboard as Florida led 3-2. In the early going, the combined field goal percentage was a miniscule 20 percent on five for 24 shooting.

But things soon heated up. After failing to get off a shot in the first nine minutes, Freije nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at nine. Later, VU freshman Mario Moore hit a bucket from long range to give the Commodores the lead at 14-12.

After every big shot that Vanderbilt made, Walsh seemed to hush the crowd with his own offense. After each of the big three-pointers by VU, Walsh knocked down his own from long range.

Vanderbilt closed out the half with an unlikely Commodore heating up. Sophomore center David Przybyszewski went on a tear as he scored 10 points in four minutes at the end of the first half. The scoring included two three-pointers and a thunderous dunk off a missed shot that brought the crowd to their feet. Przybyszewski finished the game with 14 points.

Vanderbilt held a slim 31-29 lead going into halftime. Missing from action in the first half was Florida’s leading scorer Matt Bonner, who failed to score a point.

Florida head coach Billy Donavan said that he was furious with Bonner’s play and demanded the senior needed to lead the team in order to get a tough SEC road win. Bonner must have taken the words to heart. Bonner caught fire in the second half as he poured in 17 points and two three-pointers.

For a period in the second half, Bonner and Freije seemed to be playing a game of horse. Each player gave the other their best shots and neither one would back down. During one stretch Freije scored 12 straight points for the Commodores.

“Matt Freije is a great, great player. We did not have an answer for him,” said Donovan.

The biggest play of the game came with the score tied at 62 and Vanderbilt holding the ball after a Florida turnover. Moore, who finished the game with 14 points and four three-pointers, spotted up and shot a three that hit the back rim, bounced to the top edge of the backboard, and eventually fell into the hoop. During the shot, Bonner fouled Freije while battling for position and Vanderbilt was given two free throws. The foul was Bonner’s fifth and retired him for the rest of the game.

The rest of the game was controlled by the Florida freshmen. Roberson and Walsh carried the Gators to victory and improved their record to 22-4, 10-2. The Commodores fell to 10-13, 3-9.

“I’m proud of out team. I don’t say that often in defeat, but I am proud of our team,” said Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings.

Vanderbilt returns to action Wednesday night as Arkansas comes to Memorial Gym. The game begins at 7 pm CT.


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)