Will Richard scores 21 as No. 24 Florida cruises past Vanderbilt

Feb 24, 2024; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores guard Ezra Manjon (5) attempts a layup over Florida Gators forward Tyrese Samuel (4) during the first half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Will Richard led the way with 21 points and Walter Clayton Jr. came up just short of his fifth consecutive game with at least 20 points as No. 24 Florida cruised to a 77-64 Southeastern Conference victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, Fla.

Clayton settled for 19 points in leaving the game with 1:43 left and the Gators (19-8, 9-5 SEC) up 76-57. Tyrese Samuel also was in double figures with 15 points.

Ven-Allen Lubin led the Commodores (7-20, 2-12 SEC) with 15 points while Evan Taylor and Ezra Manjon scored 10 each.

The Commodores, who came into the game only 12th in rebounding in the conference, actually outrebounded the Gators, the league’s top rebounding team, by a 38-37 margin, but couldn’t overcome a slow start shooting.

They shot only 25.9 percent in the opening half, matching their season-low first-half output with just 20 points. They were 13 of 29 in the second half (44.8 percent) to outscore the Gators 44-42 but trailed by double digits the entire 20 minutes.

They were only 19 of 29 from the free throw line and were charged with 13 turnovers. Florida was 12 of 19 from the stripe and made 12 turnovers.

The Gators quickly upped a 15-point halftime lead to 19 points to start the second half but the Commodores went on runs of 7-0 and 8-0 to get their deficit down to 47-37 with just under 14 minutes left in the game.

But the Gators — who have had a history this season of losing double-digit second-half leads — responded this time, and with 8:21 left, they held a 22-point cushion 65-43.

A 9-0 burst got the Commodores within 65-52 but that was as close as they could get down the stretch.

Florida opened the game 5-of-5 from the field for an early 12-4 lead and remained in control the rest of the opening period. The Gators finished shooting a mere 41.4 percent but had a comfortable 35-20 lead at the break as the Commodores struggled from the field, going only 7 of 27 (25.9 percent).

Vandy did a respectable job on the boards in matching the Gators in rebounds 21-21 but turned the ball over eight times, double Florida’s four turnovers.

Samuel (5-of-6 from the field) was the only player for either team in double figures with 11 points in the first half.

–Field Level Media

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