The Fastbreak: No. 7 Florida tops Auburn 68-61

The No. 7 Florida Gators (15-2, 4-0 SEC) escaped with a 68-61 road victory against the Auburn Tigers (8-7, 0-4 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Auburn Arena in Auburn, AL, improving to 7-2 in single-digit decisions this season.

The Gators won their ninth-straight game and picked up a win for the 14th time in their last 15 contests. OnlyGators.com breaks it down with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, with less than 90 seconds to play and his team leading by one, hit a step-back jumper to give the Gators some breathing room. On the next two offensive possessions, Wilbekin struggled at the line but still drained two of four free throws to boost his team’s advantage to five points. He wrapped things up with 16 points (2-for-2 from downtown, 6-for-8 from the charity stripe), three boards and a dime. The Tigers never scored again.

“I was happy he put some pressure at the basket,” said head coach Billy Donovan after the game. “He made a tough shot in the lane.”

Prominent players: Returning from a bone bruise on his knee that forced him to miss two games, senior forward Casey Prather went off, scoring a game-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He hit 5-of-7 free throws and grabbed six boards with an assist and steal rounding out his stat line on the afternoon.

“I didn’t really know what to expect out of him,” Donovan said. “[Limited minutes] went out the window at the half when he had 16. He was clearly going to play a lot more minutes – he played so well. I’m not so sure, if he was hurt again this game, if this was a game we could’ve pulled out.”

Senior center Patric Young was ineffective in the first half but came on strong in the latter 20 minutes, finishing with 13 points and six boards. He went 5-for-8 from the floor and registered two big blocks including one with 25 seconds to play and his team only leading by four points at the time.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak after the…break.

First half focus: A 14-1 run, including eight points by Prather, stretched Florida’s first half lead to 23-10 with 8:48 to go until the break. However, Auburn responded with a 14-0 stretch – including seven free throws and two three-pointers – over just 2:40 to retake the lead. The Tigers outscored the Gators 18-6 over the final 4:32, but UF led by one.

Perfect plays: On consecutive defensive stands early in the second half, senior F Will Yegeute blocked a dunk with the shot clock winding down and took a big charge to create a turnover. Yeguete got better elevation on the former play than he had previously this season, which is good news for Florida going forward.

Standout stat: The Gators once again struggled to defend an opponent at the three-point line. The Tigers hit six-straight threes to open the game and finished 7-of-13, mostly because Auburn was forcing triples late in the contest.

Strange situations: Four different Florida players air-balled shots on Saturday including Yeguete (hook), sophomore guard Michael Frazier III (three), redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith (three) and freshman point guard Kasey Hill (floater). Frazier in particular had a bad day overall, finishing scoreless (0-for-2) with two turnovers and three fouls while playing poor perimeter defense. UF also committed four kick-balls on the afternoon, an unimportant but nevertheless weird occurrence.

What it means: The Gators once again pulled off a tight single-digit victory on the road, improving to 3-2 in true road contests and 7-2 in close games this season.

Next up: Florida gets four days off before hitting the road again to face Alabama on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.. It is the first of two games in three days for UF, which hosts Tennessee on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

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11 Responses to “The Fastbreak: No. 7 Florida tops Auburn 68-61”

  1. John says:

    I saw a different Kasey Hill today than the one that we’ve been seeing. He was confident and aggressive, hopefully it’ll continue.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I agree. Loved his defensive intensity. Played more under control. Huge upside to this kid as he continues to learn the college game and develop physically.

      I like the way he and Wilbekin are learning to play together. It’s a process for sure, but it’s hard not to get excited.

  2. ryan says:

    Has the NCAA talked at all about doing a time runoff or 2 shots and the ball if the foul is committed before the ball goes inbounds? Glad P-young hit them at the end but I think that rule should change like the NBA did.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Ha ha. . I thought the refs had blown that call until I saw your comment. Didn’t realize that wasn’t the rule in the NCAA but agree with you that it should be.

  3. Kaleb Wolfe says:

    Anyone know the latest news on Chris Walker getting cleared finally ??? I say we do like Penn St. Fans did whey they were placed on probation recently due to the harshness of the NCAA sanctions, I say us Gator fans sign a petition to let Chris Walker play basketball I mean this is getting to the point of ridiculousness. Since the NCAA can’t get around to finally clearing him then Gator Nation needs to let him their voices be heard there’s absolutely no reason this kid should not be eligible none at all. I say we start a petition it maybe the difference between winning Donovan another deserving National Championship or not……..

  4. Michael Jones says:

    This team doesn’t fold down the stretch of tough, close games like some of our recent editions that were talented, but not as mentally tough as this group. And I have to give Wilbekin credit. His offense-killing over-dribbling is frustrating to watch at times, but he too is mentally tough and seems to symbolize the senior leadership and grit that characterizes this team.

    Just wish Chris Walker would be freed so that he can get the chance to develop some chemistry with his teammates and play in some tough games before March gets here.

    • Gatorgrad79 says:

      So at every home game, when the TV cameras are on the fans need to hold signs that read “FREE CHRIS WALKER” ….. :)

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