Updated on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Florida Gators basketball (10-6, 3-0 SEC) continued its upward momentum by winning its third-straight in Southeastern Conference play with a 75-55 victory over the Auburn Tigers (9-7, 1-2 SEC) on Thursday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. The win was Florida’s 21th consecutive regular-season victory in SEC play and 19th-straight home win against a league opponent dating back to Jan. 9, 2013.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:
It was over when: After seeing its lead cut in half from 20 to 10 due to a 10-0 Auburn run (see below), Florida scored six points on three-straight possessions in just 1:13 to increase its advantage to 16 points and hold on for the victory.
Significant stretches: The Gators opened the second half with a 10-3 scoring stretch, extending their advantage and taking a game-high 24-point lead on the Tigers. Spanning the half, Auburn went 9:53 without netting a field goal, allowing Florida to build on its 17-point halftime lead. AU would not be denied, however, turning three-straight UF turnovers into three-pointers with a 10-0 run that cut its deficit to 10 with five minutes to play.
“I think our team is getting better. We’re not there. There’s an immaturity, a lack of understanding,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “We’re up 19 points, we have three empty possessions and they make three-straight threes. All of a sudden the lead goes from 19 to 10 and they’re looking around like, ‘What happened?!’ They have no concept how quickly it can change.”
Prominent players: Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith scored eight points in the first 4:24 of the second half after posting just two in the opening 20 minutes of the game. He finished with a game-high 14 points while draining both of this 2-of-3 triples and all four of his free throws. Sophomore point guard Kasey Hill also stepped up with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting with five boards, a game-high seven assists and no turnovers.
“I thought Kasey was really good tonight. Outside the lack of finishing at the basket – I thought he could’ve had a really great night scoring – he had a great night in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio,” Donovan said. “The last two games, it’s 14 assists and one turnover, so you got to give him credit. He’s done a really nice job running our team, moving the ball, getting guys shots, making pretty good decisions.”
First half focus: Florida got over a rough start by taking off on an 15-0 run while hitting 9-of-11 field goals (including three triples) to take a 26-8 lead over Auburn through the first 11 minutes of the game; during the same span, the Tigers went 0-for-9 from the floor and lasted 7:11 without making a field goal. UF held a 37-20 lead over AU at the break as it was outscored 11-12 over the duration of the opening period.
Perfect play: Early in the first half, junior guard Michael Frazier II was dribbling up the court when he saw freshman Devin Robinson moving to the basket, so he lifted the ball up for a long alley-oop that shook the O’Dome. Frazier was inefficient offensively but scored 11 points and led the way with a team-high nine rebounds on the evening.
Standout stats: Florida dominated Auburn in the paint, outscoring the visitors 36-16 and winning the rebounding battle 37-35 (a small margin due to more made baskets). UF also saw 36 of its 71 points come from the bench as two of its starters were quite ineffective and saw limited action on Thursday. Still, Florida struggled with fouling (20) and foul shooting (10-of-16), giving Auburn too many opportunities to keep the game closer than it should have been.
“We are fouling at an astronomical and alarming rate. Every game it’s 20 fouls. … We’re getting into these second halves where there’s 16 minutes to go in the game and we’ve already got 16 fouls,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to do a better job of being in the right position of where we’re supposed to be and stop fouling like we’re fouling.”
What it means: The Gators took care of business at home, winning their third-straight league game and improving to 10-0 against the Tigers in the O’Dome under Donovan. The coach also improved his record against Auburn’s Bruce Pearl; Donovan is now 6-8 against his rival. The 20-point loss was Pearl’s largest ever in regular-season SEC play.
Next up: Florida must turn around quickly to play its second game in three days when it hits the road to face Georgia on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Everything else: Redshirt senior center Jon Horford checked in with 13:28 remaining in the first half after missing back-to-back games … Florida and Auburn combined to commit 37 fouls in 40 minutes … the Tigers entered the bonus down 20 with 10:47 to play and used it to help cut their deficit in half … Gators redshirt junior G Eli Carter went 5-for-9 with 12 points, three dimes and two boards … freshman PG Chris Chiozza impressed with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting … Robinson, redshirt junior F Alex Murphy and sophomore C Chris Walker were all ineffective on the evening, combining for nine points on 3-of-9 shooting with nine boards … redshirt senior F Jacob Kurtz was a team-best +27 in the plus/minus … Florida led for 38:44 of the 40-minute contest and never trailed