GAINESVILLE — It was the double-digit underdog that Florida coach Billy Donovan had warned his team would be no pushover. Turns out, Donovan was more insightful than the oddsmakers.
A struggling Auburn team gave the No. 12 Gators all they could handle for about 26 minutes, but a late Florida run led to a 63-47 victory at the O'Connell Center on Tuesday night.
The Gators (22-6, 10-3 SEC) overcame a sloppy, sluggish first half that included 12 turnovers. Trailing 37-36 with 13:59 left, Florida outscored Auburn 26-4. Auburn (14-13, 4-9) scored 11 in the second half until two minutes remained.
Florida sophomore forward Will Yeguete sustained a hairline fracture of his left foot. Donovan said he expects him to be out for the remainder of the season, but Yeguete said doctors didn't say for sure.
The Gators had just six turnovers in the second half and made 7 of 12 3-pointers. The second-half performance was aided by a "heartfelt" halftime talk by Donovan that the players described as, well, rough.
"This might have been the worst one since I've been here," said senior guard Erving Walker who with 13 points moved into a tie for fourth on UF's all-time list (1,678 with Stacey Poole). "Maybe by far actually. I don't know, something ticked him off. I guess those turnovers."
Donovan said he spoke from his heart, challenging his team to imagine what former players, family members and ticket buyers were thinking about the way it was playing.
"We're all privileged in that locker room," Donovan said. "I think sometimes what gets lost is they have to understand that it means something when Florida is across the jersey to me. There's a lot of energy that went into this (building the program). We may not always play great, we may not always make every shot, we may not always play mistake-free, but we can play with a focus, passion and energy that I think the people that are here that are watching us deserve to see. … And that was my thing. It's unacceptable."