Florida had its chances to finish off a game against another quality opponent and boost its NCAA Tournament hopes.
Instead, the Gators misfired down the stretch in a 64-60 loss to No. 13 Vanderbilt in its regular-season home finale at the O'Connell Center.
For the second straight game, the Gators couldn't make a big shot on their final possession. This time, with Florida down 62-60, freshman Kenny Boynton had an open look for a 3-point attempt with 10 seconds remaining. But Boynton's shot clanged off the rim, and Vanderbilt came up with the rebound.
Vanderbilt point guard Jermaine Beal then hit two free throws with 6.7 seconds left to close out the game.
Despite playing excellent defense in the second half to get back in the game, Florida couldn't overcome shooting 26.7 percent from the floor in the second half. The Gators scored just one point in the final 3:35 to fall to 6-5 in games decided by five points or less.
"I thought we got some phenomenal looks," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We had Boynton wide open for a 3-pointer and that's about as good as you can ask for. I thought tonight was one of those games where offensively we executed well but the result of the ball going in the basket wasn't what we liked."
After Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy put the Commodores ahead 62-60 on a putback with 2:03 remaining, Florida had two other chances to tie the game. But Boynton missed a short bank shot in the lane and point guard Erving Walker missed a floater in the lane with 51.7 seconds left.
"When you leave your heart out there and you come up short, it's disappointing," Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons said. "Our backs are against the wall now. We're going to see how tough we are."
Florida (20-10, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) dropped to 3-7 against teams in the Top 50 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
Down by as many as 12 points in the first half, Florida rallied to take a 53-48 lead on a pair of Boynton free throws. But the Gators couldn't hold the lead, scoring just one point in the final 3:35.
Freshman guard John Jenkins came up big with back-to-back 3-pointers for Vanderbilt to put the Commodores ahead 60-59 with 3:35 left. Jenkins went 6-for-9 from 3-point range.
"You kind of have to pick your poison," Donovan said. "I wish we had guys that could guard Ogilvy and Beal one-on-one."
Florida junior center Vernon Macklin led the Gators with 21 points. But no other UF player reached double figures. Parsons, coming off a career-high 29-point performance against Georgia, was held to just three points.
"Every time I was coming around off pick and roll, they had a wall of players there to stop me," Parsons said.
Honored before the game on Senior Day, Florida senior Dan Werner put together a gritty effort with 8 points, 5 rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. But Werner was involved in a bizarre play down the stretch. After Ogilvy's shot attempt appeared to go awry with 2:03 left, Werner tapped the putback back in his own basket going for the rebound. Ogilvy was bearing down on him on the play.
"Just a freak play," Werner said.
Jenkins led Vanderbilt (23-6, 12-3 SEC) with 18 points. Ogilvy had 16 points and Beal had 13 points and six assists.
Florida came out tight early, missing its first five attempts from the floor. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, made its first four 3-point attempts. Beal and Jenkins hit back-to-back 3-point attempts to give the Commodores an early 20-8 lead.
After a Beal 3-pointer extended Vanderbilt's lead to 38-27 with 2:31 left in the first half, the Gators closed the half on an 8-0 run. Alex Tyus made a jumper and one of two free throws to cut the Vanderbilt lead to 38-30. Shipman then hit a jumper with 53 seconds left to pull Florida within 38-32. After forcing a shot clock violation, point guard Erving Walker found sophomore Ray Shipman open in the corner. Shipman hit his first 3-pointer since Nov. 27, 2009 against Michigan State, cutting the Vanderbilt lead to 38-35 at halftime.
Vanderbilt went 6-of-8 from 3-point range in the first half and 10-of-20 for the game.
Florida, meanwhile, struggled from the perimeter throughout the game. The Gators shot 36.5 percent from the floor and 15.4 percent (2-13) from 3-point range.
"The 3-point line was a huge difference, and when you see a disparity like we had where it was two for us and 10 for them, it really shows how hard our guys battled and fought defensively," Donovan said.