Gators keep NCAA hopes alive with a 78-69 win over Auburn
In a must-win game in which no one wanted to say the words, “must” or “win”, Florida accomplished exactly what was necessary to keep its NCAA postseason hopes alive.
The Gators dominated inside the paint when possible, defended the 3-point line and generated enough perimeter offense to earn a 78-69 victory over Auburn Thursday night in the first round of the SEC men’s basketball tournament.
It was the first time in three years the Gators have defeated a team from Alabama in the SEC tournament. Florida (21-11) will play Mississippi State Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Gators defeated the Bulldogs in an earlier meeting 69-62 on Feb. 6.
“I thought going into the game that a big factor for us and a huge key was going to be our ability to guard the 3-point line,’’ UF coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we did about as good a job as we could have guarding them from the 3-point line.’’
Florida held Auburn (15-17) to 16 percent from beyond the arc.
“One of the things we have to do is shoot the ball well from three and that didn’t happen tonight,’’ Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. “I’m very proud of my team the way they battled. It was a hard-fought game, we just came up short.’’
The Gators led 40-31 at halftime, but opened the second half 0-for-7, allowing Auburn to go on an 8-0 run. But after the Tigers cut the lead to 42-41 on a layup by Lucas Hargrove with 15:22 remaining in the game, UF freshman guard Kenny Boynton hit three consecutive three pointers to kick off a 13-0 run that Auburn couldn’t overcome.
Florida junior F Alex Tyus had a team-high 24 points, and junior Chandler Parsons added 21. Auburn G Frankie Sullivan had a game-high 27 points.