Everything Todd Golden had to say ahead of home stand against Vanderbilt

The Florida Gators basketball program is set to host a sold out crowd in Exactech Arena on Saturday afternoon, as they welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores for a matinee in the Swamp.

The Orange and Blue have won their last seven of nine contests, most recently falling to the Alabama Crimson Tide in overtime on Wednesday. Despite the loss, UF head coach Todd Golden still thinks his team is right where it needs to be from a production standpoint.

Golden spoke with the media on Friday to give more takeaways from the loss in Tuscaloosa and shared what he sees in Vanderbilt’s starting lineup. Florida was also updated on the suspension of Alabama forward Mohamed Wauge.

Here’s what Golden had to share with the media ahead of Saturday’s matchup.

Takeaways from Alabama loss

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Positives, obviously, a really, really tough environment to play in. I feel like from where we were in December and going into conference play and how we performed on the road to where we are now, we have improved a lot.

Obviously, winning at Missouri was the first step and winning at Kentucky was the second step. Fell a little short against Alabama, but I thought we did a really good job of competing at a high level.

The disappointing? The glass. We’d been really, really good all year and for the first time all year we got beat up pretty good on the glass. I think we were (minus-10) or something. For me, that was really the difference in the game. Both teams did a great job of taking care of the ball. Both shot it the same efficiency level. And so, the only other area there is rebounding, and they had a 10-spot advantage on us.

We tell our guys all the time that every rebound is worth a point, so that’s a big delta we couldn’t clear. Again, it’s really, really hard to win on the road, especially against ranked opponents. You see a team like UConn, arguably the best team in our game, go into Creighton and get beat up.

So proud of the way we competed, disappointed in the result, but I feel if we can continue to challenge ourselves in those situations moving forward – our next one will be at South Carolina, in terms of being on the road – and now it’s about taking care of things on our home floor.

Mo Wauge's suspension after in-game foul

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

We got a notification from the league yesterday. I think everybody would have liked for it to be handled in real time a little better. Obviously, during the game, the foul was called on Alex and that was tough to swallow. But the speed of the game is quick. People make mistakes.

Credit to the league and Mike Eades, director of officials, for addressing it. Obviously, the suspension and hopefully the Alabama player learned from it.

Why Golden was upset during game Saturday

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

I thought in real time, I was upset they called the foul on Alex. I thought he did a good job of being the first to the floor and getting his hand on the ball. We saw multiple bodies diving in there.

When we came out of that scrum with the foul on Alex, I was really confused. That’s why I was upset.

What he sees in Vanderbilt

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

They’re a unique team. They have three what I consider really good players — Ezra Manjon, Tyrin Lawrence and Ven-Allen Lubin. Those guys are impact players and are going to be really hard to guard. The thing that concerns you is their ability to shoot.

They have multiple guys, the 2s, 3s and even their 4s that can really poke it and can spread you out a little bit similar to the Georgia scout that way, with (Jabri) Abdur-Rahim and (RJ) Melendez playing in the frontcourt. So just making sure with our bigger lineups that we defend the 3-point line and do a good job of not letting them come into here and try to bomb us.

That’s the biggest concern and then they’ve good guards. Manjon and Lawrence are really good players and they bothered us a lot last year, so we’re going to have to do a good job on those guys tomorrow.

Challenges of playing a team that’s outmanned

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Kind of just continuing to look at the big picture in terms of, you know, our goals of making the NCAA Tournament and advancing to the Tournament and getting ourselves in position to have success in the conference tournament with seeding and everything like that.

“We have a ton of things to play for and you have to win the games to put yourselves in good position to do that, and Vandy has our respect. They played Alabama really well on their home floor, had a chance to beat them late. They played Tennessee really well on their home floor. They’ve had a couple of tough games in a row, but they’ve proven the capacity to compete at a high level in our league, even though their win-loss record’s not great.

So, you know, this team, at this level – I think our team has matured in our approach in a way, you know, regardless of opponent, we’ve come out and competed pretty well, and we can’t be any different tomorrow. We got to make sure we come out and respect but not fear Vanderbilt.

Player rotation at this point in the season

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

I think we’re pretty set. Julian’s still dealing with some injuries, so I’m not sure he’s gonna be ready to help us. Honestly, Kajus is ready, I think he’s a guy that we could throw in and he can be fine, you know, playing some minutes, you know.

Denzel is a guy that’s coming on, and although he’s not shot the ball great in games, you know, he’s kind of kept us in a good flow and kept the points going the right way. So, again, I expect Riley to be an impact player tomorrow, and if he’s not, I think Denzel will be ready to go. And you know, four or five guys, I think Tommy could steal some minutes at the three, which can help us on the perimeter also.

So, I think we have the personnel. We need to perform at a high level tomorrow.

Vanderbilt game being an opportunity to get right

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, I think any time we can play in the O’Dome in front of a sold-out crowd, it’s just an awesome opportunity. Our fans have supported us incredibly well all year. I feel like coming and selling this Vandy game out a week or two before the game is another example of their support of us and our guys have done a really good job in our building of taking in that support and playing with great energy and enthusiasm.

Vandy provides plenty of challenges, especially with the way they play offensively and us having to guard them. But we have to be ourselves too and we have to come out and be really aggressive in transition, push tempo, play really physically, play aggressively. If we do that, we should give ourselves a pretty good shot.

Maintaining composure when calls don't go their way

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

I think we’ve gotten better that way. I think early on in the year we were a little too emotional about officiating and we allowed it to take us out of our game a little bit. But once we got through really the Ole Miss game, I thought that was a good learning experience for us where we got pounded and it was like, “Listen, we’ve got to step it up. If we don’t change our approach and change our mentality in these games, it’s going to be really tough to have success.”

Even though we didn’t play particularly well at Tennessee, I thought our mentality was better and then at Missouri we incrementally improved. Keep in mind Will and Riley are the only two guys who really played in the SEC last year. It’s a much different league than even the Big East, which Tyrese played in.

It’s very physical, it’s very athletic and once we kind of got ourselves balanced, I think we’ve been better that way in terms of playing through the officiating and not allowing it to affect our mentality.

Next up

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Florida and Vanderbilt Commodores tip off at 1 p.m. ET inside the O’Connell Center on Saturday, Feb. 24 and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire