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No. 24 Florida continues pushing for a top four finish in the Southeastern Conference when the Gators roll out the welcome mats for struggling Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.

The Gators (18-8, 8-5 SEC) couldn't hold onto a late lead in regulation and then missed the attempted game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of their 98-93 overtime loss to No. 13 Alabama Wednesday night. Florida is tied with Kentucky for fifth place in the standings with five games remaining.

The top four teams in the final regular-season standings earn byes to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament next month in Nashville, Tenn.

Gators coach Todd Golden expressed disappointment but sensed some morale victories in the loss to the league-leading Crimson Tide.

"For the majority of the game, we played pretty well," he said. "To come in here against a top-5 team analytically and to be in the lead for 30 minutes, I think, says a lot about the growth of our program and where we've come over the last couple months. We're playing like one of the best teams in America right now."

Walter Clayton Jr., the SEC's No. 4 scorer, led the Gators with 27 points and will be asked to carry the load against the Commodores.

The bigger worry against Vanderbilt might be gaining control on the interior.

Bama's Grant Nelson had 22 points and Aaron Estrada scored 20 and dominated the boards 54-44 though the Gators are statistically the league's top rebounding team and the Tide No. 3.

"The fact that we got outrebounded in this game is obviously disappointing.," Golden said.

Despite the loss, only the second in the last nine outings for the Gators, Golden said that he is "excited" to get back to work with his team.

'I think we have a chance to have a really special end of the year," he said. "Even though we came up short tonight, I think our effort indicates that."

Vanderbilt sits at the other end of the standings. The Commodores (7-19, 2-11) are 13th in the 14-team league ahead of only Missouri, which is winless in SEC play.

Since posting a stunning 74-73 win over Texas A&M, the Commodores have lost in embarrassing fashion at Tennessee (85-53) and 74-66 at home to a Georgia team that came into the game on a six-game losing streak.

Vandy dropped four of its past five games. Speculation about the future of coach Jerry Stackhouse is rampant. Stackhouse is in his fifth season in Nashville and has a 68-88 overall record with no NCAA Tournament appearances.

Asked directly about his future with Vandy, Stackhouse quoted a bible verse.

"I know there's a lot of noise out there about a lot of things, but one things I can say," he said. "No weapons thrown against me shall prosper. I've got faith with the man upstairs that He put me in this position for a reason and everything I'm going through right now with this team and off the court is ordained. And the stuff is going to make me better."

--Field Level Media

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