Those waiting for a breakout game for Florida Gators basketball got just that Saturday night as head coach Mike White’s team pummeled the Auburn Tigers early and often on the way to a dominant 95-63 victory at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
The Gators (13-6, 5-2 SEC) moved into second place in the Southeastern Conference by piling on the Tigers (9-9, 3-4 SEC) early with a season-high 53 points in the first half. Auburn was unable to recover as head coach Bruce Pearl dropped his sixth straight game against UF dating back to 2010.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s important victory with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: Though Florida’s massive early lead gave it every advantage over Auburn in the second half, the Tigers still had an opportunity to slowly cut into their large deficit. Instead, the Gators’ lead ballooned to 28 points on a 7-0 run early in the latter part of the game, and UF even increased it to 29 points with 12 minutes to play. Try as it might, AU could not get within 23 over the duration of the contest and ultimately lost by 32 points, which was Florida’s largest margin in the entire game.
Fiery first half: How’s this for a hot start? Florida began Saturday’s game 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-5 from beyond the arc and 3-for-3 from the charity stripe as part of an 18-0 run that boosted the hosts ahead 20-5. UF then built on that to create a 34-6 extended scoring stretch as it took a 36-11 lead by hitting 14-of-20 field goals, 7-of-10 threes and 4-of-4 free throws. All in all, the Gators scored a season-high 53 points in the first half, which is more than they scored in an entire game against Michigan State (52) and just two shy of their total against Miami (55). UF improved to 11-0 when leading at the half this season.
Everybody wanna shine: There were no shortage of standout performances by Florida on Saturday, but no one was more dominant against Auburn than redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who started the contest 8-of-8 from the field and 3-of-3 both from downtown and at the charity stripe. He eventually missed a couple shots but still finished 9-of-12 on the floor for a season-high 24 points with eight boards, three dimes and two blocks.
(Still) hot from downtown: Has UF’s three-point shooting actually turned the corner? One of the worst shooting teams in the nation, Florida is now 29-for-60 (.483) over the last three games. Particularly impressive has been Finney-Smith, who is now 12-for-20 (.600) over the last five contests.
Figuring out free throws: Though the Gators had not been great as a team from the charity stripe over the last few contests due to the efforts of a couple players, for the most part, Florida has improved from the free throw line. Gimmies are an important part of winning basketball games, and UF was tremendous at the stripe on Saturday hitting 20-of-24 attempts. Unsurprisingly, the .833 conversion rate was the team’s best all season. It was so good that the Gators moved up 10 spots in the national free-throw shooting rankings, going from 340th to 330th out of 346 teams in the country.
Major key alert: Florida is the best when its point guards are contributors and not detriments to the team. Junior Kasey Hill and sophomore Chris Chiozza scored 14 points each on a combined 10-of-17 shooting, dished 12 dimes (eight for Chiozza) and went 5-for-5 from the line with only five combined turnovers between the two.
Everything else: Redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu was not too shabby himself, posting 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds … freshman guard KeVaughn Allen kept rolling with 11 points, three boards and three dimes … junior F Justin Leon was once again a steady contributor, hitting all three of his shots (two treys) for eight points … Florida outrebounded Auburn 33-17 and dominated paint scoring 44-38 … UF had 20 assists on 33 made baskets … Florida led for 37:43 of the 40-minute game … the Gators have won three straight SEC games for the first time since Jan. 15, 2015 … Florida’s 95 points were the most scored against an SEC opponent since Feb. 18, 2012 at Arkansas (98)
Up next: Florida will be tested as it leaves the comforts of home for a late game Tuesday in the tough rode environment at Vanderbilt, a contest that will tip at 9 p.m. and air live on ESPNU.