Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators attempt comeback, get caged at No. 9 Auburn

By Adam Silverstein
January 8, 2022
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators attempt comeback, get caged at No. 9 Auburn
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

Florida Gators basketball’s start to SEC play could not be much worse as the program was once again outclassed by a superior ranked opponent. Florida fell 85-73 to the No. 9 Auburn Tigers on the road Saturday night, dropping to 9-5 (0-2 SEC) on the season.

The Gators have now lost five of their last eight games while dropping four straight to Power Five opponents. And given the SEC appears to be one of the nation’s best basketball conferences this season — UF has a third straight ranked opponent on the docket next week — the slate is not going to get any easier in Year 7 under Mike White.

What went down in Florida’s second straight loss to open SEC play? Keep on reading for Fastbreak Takeaways from the game.

It was over when … Auburn made bookend treys as part of a 10-2 run to open a 10-point lead with 3:57 to play. It only built on that advantage over the duration of the game. Florida trailed by nine at the break but spent the first 10 minutes of the second frame cutting into its deficit. The Gators suddenly found themselves down just one with 8:32 remaining following an 11-4 scoring stretch with all points scored by senior forwards Colin Castleton and Anthony Duruji. Try as it might, UF never retook the lead it only held briefly to start the game.

First half focus: The Tigers got whatever they wanted in the paint early, using runs of 12-2 and 8-0 to lead by 13 after 8 minutes. They regained that advantage later, though Florida twice cut its deficit to seven in and scored the final four points of the period to trail by nine at halftime. Auburn, which averaged eight blocks per game this season, had six in the opening 20 minutes. UF was only able to keep it within single digits by forcing nine turnovers and scoring 15 points off those miscues.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton was horrific in the first half as he struggled to hold onto the ball and was out-muscled in the paint, but he stirred the drink for the Gators in the second half as he scored 17 of his 22 points in the latter period. He finished with a double-double, adding 10 rebounds while hitting 7 of 14 field goals and 8 of 11 attempts from the charity stripe. Duruji also pulled through in the second half, showing that he can be effective when taking more shots. He posted 14 points on 6 of 12 shooting while hitting a pair of 3-pointers and grabbing four boards.

Odds and ends: Senior point guard Tyree Appleby did score 11 points and assist on two alley-oops as part of his nine dimes, but he was again inefficient (1 of 5 from downtown) with four turnovers … senior guard Myreon Jones may need to take more chances as he continues to impress when given opportunities, scoring 13 points on 3 of 7 shooting from long range … Auburn dominated in scoring off the bench (35-9) and in the paint (44-32), the latter of which it had a larger edge in the first half … the Gators outscored the Tigers 21-2 on second chances, largely because the hosts made 54% of their shots … Florida did take advantage of 16 forced turnovers with 22 points, but that was only enough to briefly keep it in the game … Auburn led for 37:49 with UF only holding the advantage after the opening tipoff

Florida is now 81-90 all-time against Auburn, 27-57 on the road and 5-3 overall under White … UF fell to 5-14 under White against AP top 10 teams with a 1-4 mark over the last five opportunities … the Gators have not won a road game against a top-10 team since 2003 … Florida is now 9-20 under White when allowing 80+ points … the Gators lost their second straight game while scoring 70+ points; they had been 110-24 under White until this stretch

What it means: Nothing good. As noted above, Florida is now 3-5 in its last eight games overall and 0-4 to Power Five teams in that span. While there remains no smoke concerning White’s job security, there should be no doubt that the poor play of this program over extended periods in games is a direct indictment of his ability to make adjustments on the fly and put his players in position to win. The Gators still have plenty of time to turn things around and earn an NCAA Tournament berth, but it better happen sooner than later.

What’s next? A stretch of three home games over two weeks begins for Florida on Wednesday when it faces its third straight ranked SEC opponent, No. 21 LSU at 7 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on ESPN2.

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