Johnson has 15 points as Florida beats Vanderbilt 66-57

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Freshman Keyontae Johnson had 15 points and came up with a big steal in the closing minutes, lifting Florida to a 66-57 win over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.

With Florida holding a slim 57-52 lead, Johnson intercepted a pass from Matt Ryan with 2:05 remaining. Johnson was immediately fouled and made both free throws, putting the Gators up 59-52.

A turn-around jumper from KeVaughn Allen extended UF’s lead to 61-52 with 1:30 left and the Gators (13-11, 5-6 SEC) held on to snap a three-game losing streak.

Aaron Nesmith led Vanderbilt (9-15, 0-11 SEC) with 26 points. But it wasn’t enough for the Commodores to avoid their 12th straight loss. Vanderbilt led 33-31 at the break but was unable to carry that momentum into the second half, shooting just 26.9 percent from the field and 7.7 percent (1 of 13) from 3-point range after halftime.

Florida led by as many as 10 points in the first half, going up 22-12 on a layup by Isaiah Stokes. But Vanderbilt answered with a 10-0 run, tying the score on Matt Ryan’s third 3-pointer of the first half.

Vanderbilt went up 30-25 on a four-point play by Nesmith with 1:56 remaining. But a pair of inside baskets from Stokes, including a putback with a second remaining, allowed Florida to pull within two at halftime.

The Gators battled through foul trouble for much of the first half, with starters Kevarrius Hayes and Andrew Nembhard sitting long stretches after each picked up two first-half fouls.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators kept their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive by pulling away in the closing minutes. Florida will likely need to win five of its final seven games to remain on the bubble in a tough stretch that includes two games against No. 19 LSU and one against No. 5 Kentucky.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores remain mired in a season-long funk. Vanderbilt’s 12-game skid is its longest losing streak since losing 14 in a row over the 1934-35 and 1935-36 seasons.

UP NEXT

Florida will hit the road to face Alabama on Saturday. The Gators split in two games against Alabama last season and won the last meeting between the schools in Tuscaloosa 73-52 behind 27 points from Jalen Hudson.

Vanderbilt returns home to face Auburn on Saturday afternoon, still in search of its first SEC win.

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