Even though Florida wants to regroup from its latest defeat, a victory may not be enough to keep it in the rankings.
Four days their lengthy winning streak ended, the 24th-ranked Gators will face Vanderbilt for the first time in 2008-09 on Sunday.
Florida (16-3, 3-1 SEC) was ranked for the first four weeks of this season, holding the No. 23 spot prior to its Dec. 7 loss at Florida State.
The Gators then fell out of the poll, but they regrouped to win their next 10 games - their longest streak since reeling off 17 in a row in 2006-07 - and moved back into the Top 25 on Monday.
But that run ended with Wednesday’s 70-69 defeat at South Carolina. Gators forward Chandler Parsons missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with two seconds left, allowing the Gamecocks a chance to score the decisive layup at the buzzer.
“That was just a really rough experience, something you’ve got learn from and move on from,” said Parsons, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. “It’s easy to say, ‘Just forget about.’ But obviously I’m never going to forget about that. … It’s just something you have to use to get better every day.”
For Parsons’ teammates to prevent another letdown, the SEC’s lone Top 25 team must win on the road, where they’ve lost two games this season.
Florida is 5-11 overall as a visitor since a five-game winning streak from Jan. 13-Feb. 10, 2007. It’s also lost two straight and 13 of 19 visits to Vanderbilt (12-6, 1-3) since Feb. 24, 1990.
While the Gators have won 13 of their last 16 series matchups against the Commodores, the teams have split the last four. Each squad came away with a win on its home court last season, with Florida falling at then-No. 24 Vanderbilt 61-58 on Feb. 16 in the most recent meeting.
Florida sophomore Nick Calathes has totaled 26 points in two career games versus Vanderbilt, but is averaging 22.6 - nearly five points above his team-leading average - overall in his last seven contests.
The Gators’ offense ranks among the best in the conference in both scoring (78.4 points per game) and shooting (49.1 percent), but figures to be challenged by a Commodores defense that is one of the SEC’s stingiest, holding opponents to 59.8 points per game on 37.3 percent shooting.
But Vanderbilt wasn’t as sharp its last time out, allowing season highs in both categories in a 76-63 loss to Tennessee on Tuesday. The Volunteers shot 50.0 percent from the field and snapped the Commodores’ nine-game home winning streak against conference foes.
Reserve George Drake had a team-high 16 points for Vanderbilt, which has dropped three of its last four overall.
Brad Tinsley had 10 points, but the remaining four starters - including top scoring threats A.J. Ogilvy (15.8 points per game), Jeffery Taylor (12.2) and Jermaine Beal (11.9) - combined for 21 on 3-of-22 shooting.
“I think we became tentative,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said of his team’s offensive woes. “We’ve got to not be so concerned about making mistakes or missing shots, and be willing to be aggressive and to make mistakes being aggressive and not worry about it.”
Vanderbilt will be facing its first ranked opponent this season. The Commodores have won eight of their last 12 versus Top 25 squads since Dec. 9, 2006.