No. 11 Gators use big second half to cage Tigers

What started out as a potential upset bid turned into an absolute rout as the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (22-6, 10-3 SEC) more than doubled up the Auburn Tigers (14-13, 4-9 SEC) in the second half to pull away with a 63-47 victory on Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida outscored Auburn 36-17 over the final 20 minutes and was able to shoot their way past an 18-turnover performance that allowed their opponent to take 15 more shot attempts in the first half alone.

Gators junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way for his team with one of the most efficient shooting performances of his career, hitting 7-of-11 shots from the field and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc for a game-high 20 points.

Florida started out a perfect 6-for-6 from the field (and 2-for-2 from downtown), but Auburn was nearly as efficient from beyond the arc, hitting four of their first five shots to keep UF’s lead at 16-14 early in the first half.

Though the Gators shot well, they turned the ball over 12 times in the first 20 minutes and allowed the Tigers to score 10 points off of those miscues. Auburn took 15 more shots than Florida did in the opening half and had a bench that outscored their opponent’s 16-2 as they held a 30-27 lead heading into the break.

The Gators hit a pair of three-pointers to retake the lead at the beginning of the second half, but the Tigers answered back and kept things interesting for the next seven minutes. Florida then found their stride in a big way, hitting three more treys as part of a 15-2 run to take a 51-39 lead with 6:51 to play.

UF continued to pile on AU, extending their scoring stretch to 25-4 and their lead to a game-high 20 points with less than two minutes to go. The Gators played quality defense down the stretch and took good care of the ball for the duration of the contest.

Florida slowed down in the second half, only turning the ball over six times (compared to twice as often in the first 20 minutes) and getting better looks from beyond the arc.

The Gators shot 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from three for the game and went 7-for-12 from beyond the arc is the second half alone. Florida had 13 assists on 23 baskets and outrebounded Auburn 39-24 over the course of the evening.

After turning the ball over four times in the first half, freshman G Bradley Beal was much more controlled after the break and did not cough it up once in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 13 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) with six rebounds, a block and a steal.

Senior point guard Erving Walker led the Gators with seven boards and five assists but also chipped in 13 points of his own by hitting 3-of-7 attempts from three.

Florida hopes to add to their three-game winning streak when they travel to Georgia on Saturday. The game will air live at 4 p.m. on SEC Network (check your local listings).

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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