Vanderbilt needed late heroics from Tyrin Lawrence to beat Tennessee on Wednesday night. On Saturday, they didn’t need a buzzer beater — just a career day from Liam Robbins.
Somehow, an SEC officiating crew started the game in “let them play” mode. Not that there was a ton of contact either way, but it was a full ten minutes into the game before the game reached the under-16 media timeout with Vanderbilt leading 24-22 — and that timeout was actually a called timeout by Florida. It was at the 7:12 mark that the game saw its first foul on either team.
In the meantime, Liam Robbins was putting on a show. The senior scored 13 points in the game’s first five minutes, including this dunk over his counterpart on the other side, Florida’s Colin Castleton:
Liam Robbins. HEAD TAP. pic.twitter.com/5QP1yZwreu— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) February 11, 2023
And it wasn’t just the fouls, either: the officials called only six fouls in the first half, and the teams combined to commit four turnovers. The difference early was that Vanderbilt was hot from deep and Florida wasn’t, with the Commodores making seven first-half threes to hang on to a 42-41 lead at the break after a first half that took all of 38 minutes in real time.
The referees did start calling some fouls in the second half, though the flow of the game was still good. The teams fought back and forth; a key moment, shortly after Colin Smith knocked down a three to give Vanderbilt a 68-64 lead, came when Liam Robbins — who had 26 points on the day at that point — picked up his fourth foul with 7:29 left.
Only, Vanderbilt extended the lead over the next four minutes, with Smith connecting on another huge three (while getting clobbered by a Florida defender) and Jordan Wright sinking a couple of free throws to give the Commodores a 75-69 lead with 3:53 left. Robbins came back on the floor after the final media timeout and hit a dagger three to extend the lead to 78-69 with under three minutes left, tying his career high of 29 points. Robbins would eclipse the career high with a free throw in the final minute, and added two more to finish the game with 32 points and 10 rebounds.
The final score was 88-80. Vanderbilt beat Florida for the first time since February 17, 2018, and won in Gainesville for the first time since January 21, 2017. The Commodores will travel to South Carolina on Tuesday night to look to extend their winning streak to four.