Vanderbilt 83, No. 1 Florida 70

Saturday, February 17th 2007, 2:47 pm
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ The top-ranked Florida Gators finally fell into a hole they couldn't dig themselves out of Saturday.

Derrick Byars and Shan Foster each scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt snapped the nation's longest winning streak by upsetting the Gators 83-70.

Florida (24-3, 11-1) had won 17 straight games and needed a victory to clinch at least a share of the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division and the overall league title. They also had won seven straight against the Commodores.

But Vanderbilt (18-8, 8-4) has been one of the country's best against ranked opponents this season. Students poured onto the court at Memorial Gym as the Commodores pulled off their first victory over a top-ranked team since Jan. 13, 1993, when they beat then-No. 1 Kentucky, and their sixth victory over a ranked team this season.

The Commodores won for the seventh time in nine games by beating the nation's best shooting team at its own game, hitting 57.1 percent to 44 percent. They took the lead in the first half and led by as much as 16 late.

This was the fourth time this season the Gators had trailed by double digits. They came from 18 down Wednesday night before beating Alabama.

Ross Neltner added 15 points for the Commodores.

Joakim Noah led Florida with 15, and Corey Brewer and Al Horford each had 13 as the Gators had a season-high 22 turnovers.

The Gators had been shooting 53.7 percent, but they struggled from the start when they hit only two of their first nine shots. They last led midway through the first half. 13-12, on a pair of free throws by Horford.

Vanderbilt led 35-27 at halftime, the second-fewest first-half points scored by Florida this season.

It was a fast-paced, up-and-down game from the opening tip. With 12 minutes left, Byars stole the ball, the Commodores nearly lost it out of bounds under their basket where Brewer got the steal only to turn it right back over.

Vandy was up 46-33 when Florida tried to make its customary run with seven straight points. Horford's two free throws pulled the Gators within 46-40 with 14:08 to go.

The Gators never got closer than eight the rest of the way. Their frustration started bubbling over when they had a shot clock violation with 4:28 to go after passing too much looking for a good shot.

Vandy then padded the lead with a layup, then Byars added a dunk for a 76-61 lead with 3:20 left.

Florida coach Billy Donovan benched his starters with 1:26 left and the Gators trailing 83-68.

A handful of Vandy students sneaked into the gym before the doors officially opened, and the student section was filled soon after the gates opened. The Commodores rewarded their fans enthusiasm with their best game of the season.