December 30, 2017 / 11:50 PM / a year ago

Florida holds off Vandy in SEC opener

Florida holds off Vandy in SEC opener

Egor Koulechov scored a game-high 22 points and Florida opened its SEC season in style with an 81-74 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.

Koulechov, a graduate transfer guard from Rice, made 5 of 13 shots from the field but sank all 10 of his free throws. He also added eight rebounds.

Florida (9-4, 1-0 SEC) has won three straight games after a 1-4 slump that knocked the Gators out of the AP Top 25 Poll.

They had climbed as high as No. 5 earlier in the season.

Chris Chiozza (17 points) and KeVaughn Allen (16 points) also finished in double figures in the Florida win.

The Gators help themselves at the free-throw line as they made 27 of 30 shots (90 percent), but they hit only 43 percent from the field.

Jeff Roberson led Vanderbilt (5-8, 0-1) with 18 points and Matthew Fisher-Davis added 17 as five Commodores finished in double figures.

The Gators scored the game’s first nine points but then didn’t get a point for four minutes until just over 11 minutes remained in the first half. Florida then took off, hitting six 3-pointers and scoring 31 points in that short time en route to a 40-20 halftime lead.

The Commodores kept chipping away in the second half but Florida still held a 10-point lead with three minutes left. Roberson and Riley LaChance both made 3s to cut the lead to 74-70.

Chiozza then stopped that run on a layup with 50 seconds remaining, and the Gators held on even though Vanderbilt scored 54 points in the second half.

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