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.