For nearly 45 minutes, No. 23 Vanderbilt gutted it out on the road Tuesday night.
That wasn’t enough for the Commodores, who couldn’t quite overcome late foul trouble and fell to Florida 65-61 in overtime .
Vanderbilt (15-6, 3-4 SEC) has now dropped consecutive games for the first time this season and joins Georgia in last place in the SEC East.
“We didn’t get it done but I thought we showed a tremendous amount of fight,” coach Kevin Stallings said in a postgame radio interview. “We were completely energized, completely locked in... It was unfortunate that we did not get the win but it was certainly by no fault of our guys.”
Florida (17-5, 6-2) took a 53-45 lead with 4:51 to go in regulation. But the Gators went cold and missed their last eight shots of regulation.
Vanderbilt took advantage, sort of. The Commodores weren’t much better from the field — they made just one basket over the last six minutes of regulation, but they got to the free-throw line and made the trips count. They ended regulation on a 9-1 run, capped by six free throws.
John Jenkins tied the game 54-54 when he made two free throws with 23 seconds left. Florida’s Erving Walker missed a 3-pointer to win it in regulation as time expired.
In overtime, Vanderbilt quickly lost two key players as Jeffery Taylor and reserve forward Steve Tchiengang fouled out within the first two minutes of the extra period. Center Festus Ezeli already had fouled out with less than four minutes left in regulation.
“When that happens, you just have to adjust. That is all we have to do. ... We could have done a better job of not fouling out but that happens in basketball,” Jenkins said. “Coach [Stallings] said he can accept that loss when we were fighting that hard. I agree. We fought our butts off.”
The Commodores took a 61-60 lead with 1:41 remaining in overtime when Lance Goulbourne, who played 37 minutes on an injured left ankle, drove in for a layup. On the next possession, Florida’s Kenny Boynton drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with the shot clock winding down for a 63-61 advantage.
Jenkins put up a 3-pointer from the top of the key on the next possession, but it missed badly. The ball did not hit the rim and sailed out of bounds. It appeared that Boynton’s body made contact with Jenkins', causing Stallings to argue that a foul should have been called but to no avail.
“I just can’t believe John shot an air ball ... because of who he is, especially straight away from the goal,” Stallings, who received a technical foul late in the second half, said.
Chandler Parsons sealed the victory with 15.6 seconds to go when he hit two free throws — after getting the rebound of his own missed jumper.
Florida shot just 36.7 percent from the field and Vanderbilt shot 37.5 percent. The Commodores were again edged on the glass, 47-34. Florida also had 15 offensive rebounds compared to Vanderbilt’s seven.
Jenkins, the SEC’s leading scorer, finished with a game-high 22 points in 42 minutes. Guard Brad Tinsley, who injured his leg in a loss to Arkansas on Saturday and fell hard after a made layup in overtime against Florida, played 38 minutes and scored 15 points. Taylor, who did not start because Stallings said he beat the junior in a dunk contest, had just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting. Ezeli scored only five points in 20 minutes.
For the Gators, Parson finished with 18 and Boynton and Walker each scored 15.
Vanderbilt returns to Nashville for a three-game homestand, starting with South Carolina at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.