The clapping never stopped from Auburn men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl no matter how far his team fell behind. While the Florida Gators (13-6) would go on to take down the Auburn Tigers (9-9), 95-63 Saturday in Gainesville, the polarizing head man at AU continued to fire up his players until the very end.
While the patented smirk remained on Pearl’s face the entire contest, his Tigers had much less to smile about on the court. Auburn was outplayed by Florida in all aspects of the game, including 57%-36% from the floor, 47%-25% from three, and 83%-64% from the foul line. The Gators dominated the interior, out rebounding the Tigers 44-31, and outscoring Auburn in the paint, 44-28.
Florida finished with five different players in double-digit scoring, with Dorian Finney-Smith leading the way, posting 24 points on nine of 12 shooting, adding eight rebounds as well. John Egbunu led the brigade on the boards, finishing with nine rebounds and 12 points. Egbunu only played 23 total minutes due to early foul trouble. After the game, Florida head coach Mike White talked about how Egbunu’s become a more efficient player in the post and how he and Finney-Smith are playing at an extremely high level.
Senior Tyler Harris led the Tigers in scoring, finishing with 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Forward Cinmeon Bowers had a rough night, finishing with four points, going just 2 of 13 from the floor while collecting nine of Auburn’s 31 total rebounds. Coach White explained how his team was able to contain Auburn’s two most aggressive forwards.
Dorian Finney-Smith, fresh off of his third double-double in a row, started the game red hot for the Gators, scoring 10 of the team’s first 15 points, to give Florida a 15-5 lead after the first five minutes.
A seven minute, 26-5 run by the Gators would put them up 28-10 with 11:15 remaining in the first half. Dunks by Finney-Smith and Egbunu would fire up the Rowdy Reptiles, as Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl solemnly looked on, before calling a timeout to fire up his squad.
As Coach White had discussed many times in the past, when his team hits their three-pointers, they can be extremely dangerous offensively. The Gators started off 6 of 9 from beyond the arc to take a commanding 36-16 lead with 8:25 left in the first frame.
Auburn would close out the first half on a 14-10 run to cut the Gators’ lead to 21, going into the locker room down 53-32.
The Gators out rebounded the Tigers in the first half 27-16, adding nine offensive rebounds. Florida was also able to out shoot Auburn 55%-33% from the floor, 54%-29% from beyond the arc and 83%-50% from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes. Florida’s main struggle in the first half was a familiar sight for Gator fans, turning the ball over eight times to Auburn’s four, allowing the Tigers to score 11 points.
Finney-Smith led the Gators in first half scoring, putting up 15 points and six rebounds on 6-6 shooting, including 2-2 from downtown. Egbunu added 13 solid minutes, posting 11 points and six rebounds.
No Auburn players entered double-digit points in the first half, with Tyler Harris, a junior transfer from Providence College, leading the Tigers, scoring seven points to lead the way for Auburn.
The Gators opened up the second half on a 15-9 run, making their first six shots; after ten minutes, Florida found itself up 77-53, moving the ball well and getting out into transition.
Florida closed the game on a five minute, 16-4 run, featuring some high flying antics from Kasey Hill and Justin Leon, winning the game, 95-63.
— Gator M-Basketball (@GatorsMBK) January 24, 2016
Kasey Hill, KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza all played important supplementary roles in Saturday night’s win. Hill had arguably his best game of the season, finishing with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, adding four assists. Allen’s solid mid range shooting earned him 11 points while Chiozza was the floor general for the Gators, ending up with 14 points and eight assists. Coach Mike White talked about Hill and Chiozza’s solid defense and work at the point.
The Gators’ next game comes on the road against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The Commodores have won three of their last four, despite dropping their latest contest to the Kentucky Wildcats, 76-57. White recapped how his team must prepare for Vanderbilt.