Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators stun No. 4 Auburn with blowout in O’Dome

By Adam Silverstein
January 18, 2020
Florida basketball score, takeaways: Gators stun No. 4 Auburn with blowout in O’Dome

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

In what has been an inconsistent, often-frustrating season for Florida Gators basketball, one of the highest-ranked teams this preseason finally pulled off a signature win with a 69-47 obliteration of the No. 4 Auburn Tigers on Saturday afternoon in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. With the victory, Florida (11-5) picked up its first win over a top-five team since 2009, ending a streak of six straight losses against such opponents in the O’Dome.

Auburn (15-2) started the season undefeated but lost consecutive road games by a combined 41 points and could take a tumble down the AP Top 25 when it is released on Monday. Either way, the victory was a huge one for a UF team that needed to get back to its winning ways under head coach Mike White.

What went down on Saturday in Gainesville, Florida? Keep on reading for fastbreak takeaways from the Gators’ big home victory.

It was over when … freshman forward Omar Payne hit a reverse layup and foul shot for a traditional three-point play to push Florida ahead 14 points with 4:27 to play. The Gators led the Tigers for the entire second half, but Auburn kept finding ways to cut Florida’s advantage to single digits. Payne’s effort on this play and across the entire game ensured his squad would not be denied from a big win. In fact, this was part of a stunning 20-1 game-closing run for Florida, which led by a game-high 25 points with 1:30 remaining after hitting a trio of three pointers down the stretch, including two from sophomore F Keyontae Johnson. Auburn hit three free throws in the waining seconds for the game’s final total.

Exceptional efforts: Payne was phenomenal in a career game for the Gators, posting highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds for his first double double. He hit all nine of his baskets and has now made 13 straight dating back to the Ole Miss game earlier in the week. Sophomore guard Noah Locke scored 11 points, including a couple of key triples late, and redshirt senior F Kerry Blackshear Jr. contributed another double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) with his true contribution coming on the defensive end.

Anatomy of a win: Florida’s swarming defense and consistent shooting put Auburn in a chokehold and never gave it an opportunity to breathe. The Gators began the game up 9-0 as the Tigers went just 1 of 14 from the field. Still, Florida’s lead was just five points at the break as it committed 12 turnovers and had just three assists, allowing Auburn to score 10 points off turnovers and hit all 10 of its foul shots in the opening 20 minutes. The Gators were a team of runs in the second half, starting the period 6-0 and piecing together an 8-1 run to lead by 13 with 11 minutes to play. Back-to-back threes from Tigers star G Samir Doughty cut the hosts’ lead to six with 8:30 left, but UF slowly but surely increased its lead back to double digits in the final five minutes before going on its game-ending run.

Florida made five of its final six shots and absolutely dominated the box score, outshooting Auburn in all three phases (.500-.255 FG, .471-.174 3PT, .778-.714 FT), beasting on the boards (44-29) and being far more efficient on second chances (19-9), off the bench (14-12) in the paint (34-18) and on the fastbreak (8-6). UF also reversed its fortunes in terms of protecting the ball with nine assists and three turnovers in the second half after only registering three assists to 12 turnovers in the opening frame.

Odds and ends: Florida won its first game against a top-five team since November 2009, first at home (or in the regular season) since December 2006 and first against an SEC opponent since March 2005 … the Gators snapped a six-game losing streak against top five opponents at home … Florida is now 1-5 against top-five teams and 15-25 against AP Top 25 teams under White … the Gators are 2-1 against top 25 teams this season … Florida defeated Auburn in football and men’s basketball in the same athletic season for the first time since 2002-03

What it means: At a minimum, this should be a massive confidence builder for the Gators, especially considering sophomore point guard Andrew Nembhard (five rebounds, five assists) entered the game battling the flu. Nearly everyone on the roster contributed in a total team win. Florida was efficient shooting the ball, swarming defensively and consistent across 40 minutes. It also adjusted in the second half after turning the ball over too much to open the game. This marks consecutive dominant victories for UF after it blew out Ole Miss 71-55 on Tuesday. Florida has won its last two games by an average of 19 points, this after being annihilated by 16 on the road at Missouri last Saturday.

What’s next? The Gators will get a chance to prove they have truly turned a corner as they jump right back on the road this week. Florida will face LSU on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on SEC Network. It then gets a break from league play with the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday when it hosts Baylor at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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