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February 1, 2011

Vanderbilt loses overtime heart-breaker to Florida

More tough luck befell Vanderbilt on Tuesday evening, as the Commodores couldn't overcome injuries and assorted adversity in falling 65-61 in overtime at Florida.

Fighting from eight down in the second half, the 'Dores held Florida without a field goal in the final 6:18, but couldn't hold off the Gators with a small lineup that included walk-ons Joe Duffy and Jordan Smart down the stretch.

After VU's John Jenkins was bumped on an airball of a 3-point attempt in the final minute of the extra period with the 'Dores down two points, Vanderbilt didn't get the call, and watched as Chandler Parsons, a 51.7 percent foul shooter coming in, hit a pair of free throws with 15.6 second left to ice the game.

It was the third overtime loss in three games for VU, which has now lost four games decided by four points or less this year.

The Commodores, already playing with Lance Goulbourne severely hobbled, saw Festus Ezeli, Steve Tchiengang and Jeffery Taylor foul out. As was the case during the game, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who was assessed a second-half technical foul, didn't mince words regarding the officiating afterwards.

"[The officiating] was problematic and I thought John got hit on that 3 point shot and I know that my assistants call phones were blown up with people calling saying he (got fouled). It's tough when they hit a contested 3 at the end of the shot clock and I cannot believe John shot an air ball. That's not who he is, especially straight on," Stallings said.

Jenkins (22 points) and Brad Tinsley (15) kept VU in the game on an evening where the 'Dores shot 37.5 percent from the field, and were beaten 47-34 on the backboards.

Jenkins hit a big 3 with just over four minutes to play in regulation as Vandy was down eight, and a pair of foul shots left with 24.1 seconds to tie the game and eventually send it to overtime.

In the extra period, Tinsley converted a three-point play on a drive and a lay-up with 2:20 left.

With the three VU players fouled out, Stallings had VU in a 2-3 zone on UF's next trip down the floor, and Parsons buried a 17-footer from the right side

Goulbourne answered with a contested lay-up, but UF's Kenny Boynton buried a contested 3 from the right side to put the Gators up two with 1:04 remaining.

Still, VU looked as if it could win the game from the free throw line when Boynton, who admitted to fouling on the play, made contact on Jenkins' airball with 45 seconds left. ESPN's Dick Vitale termed the lack of a whistle as "criminal" on the national TV broadcast.

"It feels like the second time that there has been a no foul when a foul has occurred in a close game. Jeff [Taylor] got tripped in a close game and slid across the floor and there was no call. Our game is getting fouled, and if they're not gonna call it then we're gonna have some issues," Stallings said.

Stallings was referring to another no-call down the stretch of VU's game at Tennessee. In the final minute of that one, Taylor hit the floor and slid approximately 20 feet with no whistle for either a foul or a travel.

Both were road contests, where all three of VU's overtime losses have occurred. The good news is that VU has three-straight home games, starting with Saturday's contest against South Carolina.

Just as welcome will be the five-day break before the next game. Goulbourne gutted out 36 minutes of floor time, managing four points and six rebounds, but obviously wasn't at full strength.

"He was literally in tears on the bench because his ankle was in so much pain," Stallings said.

More help could be coming soon, as starting power forward Andre Walker is getting closer to returning from a sprained ankle. Walker probably won't be ready for Carolina, however.

It's the first time VU has lost back-to-back games this year, but unlike Saturday's loss to Arkansas, Stallings wasn't discouraged with the effort.

"We didn't get it done, but I thought we showed a tremendous about of fight. There was nothing about our team we were completely energized and playing defense as hard as we could," he said.


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