Florida, minus Johnson, faces Vanderbilt in SEC opener

·3 min read

Florida (3-1) begins life without Keyontae Johnson when the Gators travel to Nashville to face Vanderbilt (4-2) on Wednesday night in the SEC opener for both teams.

Johnson, the preseason SEC Player of the Year, collapsed during the first half of the Gators' most recent game, an 83-71 loss at Florida State on Dec. 12. Florida postponed its next four games in the aftermath of the incident.

The circumstances that caused the collapse aren't publicly known, and Johnson was released from the hospital on Dec. 22. He was back at practice with the team on the 28th; however, his activity was limited to helping the coaching staff with scouting work.

Florida coach Mike White was asked about the possibility of Johnson's return.

"I have no idea, and even if I did, I could not talk about it," White said, citing privacy laws.

That leaves the Gators likely to be more reliant on Scottie Lewis (30 minutes per game, 12.8 points per game), Tre Mann (29.3, 15.8), Noah Locke (23.5, 10.5) and Tyree Appleby (21.5, 7.3). All played more than their season average after Johnson, who played four minutes against FSU, left the game, with Lewis (39 minutes) and Mann (29) leading the way.

The Gators' biggest win has been a 90-70 thrashing of Boston College on Dec. 3.

But the Commodores haven't proved much, either, failing their two most significant tests this season in losses to Richmond, 78-67, and Davidson, 85-65.

Vandy has relied heavily on Scotty Pippen Jr. (23.3 ppg, 4.3 assists per game) and Dylan Disu (11.0 ppg, 9 rebounds per game), the only two Commodores averaging over 22 minutes.

Pippen normally occupies the point with Disu serving as a stretch-four, but coach Jerry Stackhouse inserted Isaac McBride into the starting lineup to help Pippen some at the point in Sunday's 87-59 win over Alcorn State, while sliding Disu to the five. McBride didn't score but had four assists.

Playing an 0-4 team had something to do with the results, but the Commodores also registered season highs in assists (21) and 3-pointers (14).

"Offensively I think we did a good job sharing the ball (Sunday), so we can do a little bit more of that," Vanderbilt wing DJ Harvey said. "Then just make open shots. That's what our offense is based around, making the 3-point shot."

Vanderbilt got a boost from Myles Stute, who hadn't played since the team's Nov. 27 opener due to a team COVID-19 outbreak. Stute had 16 points in 19 minutes, going 4-of-6 from the 3-point line.

However, the Commodores were without starting center Clevon Brown on Sunday. Brown has played just 39 minutes this year. He also missed time due to the outbreak but suffered an undisclosed injury in Saturday's practice that has left him questionable for Wednesday's game.

--Field Level Media

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