Florida vs. No. 2 Auburn score, takeaways: Gators survive for highest-ranked home win in program history

By Adam Silverstein
February 19, 2022
Florida vs. No. 2 Auburn score, takeaways: Gators survive for highest-ranked home win in program history
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

It was a historic afternoon inside the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as Florida Gators basketball picked up the highest-ranked victory on its home court in program history, surviving a late scare for a 63-62 win over the No. 2 Auburn Tigers. Florida (17-10, 7-7 SEC) evened the season series with Auburn (24-3, 12-2 SEC), one of the top teams throughout the 2021-22 campaign.

The Gators had never defeated a team ranked as high as No. 2 on Billy Donovan Court, though they had previously beaten No. 2 teams in regular-season nonconference play back in 2002 and 2009. As such, Saturday also marked their highest-ranked win over an SEC opponent in program history. While Florida does have a pair of wins over No. 1-ranked teams, both came in NCAA Tournament play.

Seniors guard Tyree Appleby and forward Colin Castleton were clearly the stars of the show, combining to score 45 points, 71.4% of their team’s total. The Gators also got themselves firmly back on the NCAA Tournament bubble with their biggest win of the season despite appearing to completely play themselves off of it with consecutive losses over the last week.

What went down on Saturday afternoon in this shocking win? Let’s take a look with some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … Florida played stellar defense on the game’s final possession, holding Auburn without a shot attempt despite the Tigers starting down a single point with 7.1 seconds left. This came despite the Gators leading by as many as eight with 2:16 remaining. Aside from those final 7.1 seconds, Florida made one mistake after another across the last 2 minutes of the game.

First, Gators senior F Anthony Duruji fouled a 3-point attempt, which UF has now done on key possessions in consecutive contests. Then, redshirt senior guard Brandon McKissic turned the ball over while inbounding under Auburn’s basket, allowing the visitors to score five straight points. Castleton missed one of two free throws on the other end, and after getting a stop on defense, Florida retained possession with the clock ticking down. Head coach Mike White called a timeout with 9.9 seconds remaining only for redshirt senior G Phlandrous Fleming Jr. to commit another turnover, this time inbounds under UF’s own basket. That gave AU its final opportunity.

Auburn used a 17-2 stretch spanning halftime to lead Florida by seven just 4 minutes into the second half. The Tigers eventually increased their advantage to nine, but the Gators began chipping away and used an extended 12-2 run to retake the lead, which they ended up holding for the final 5:10.

First half focus: Auburn scored the final seven points of the opening period as Florida once again suffered a scoreless streak entering the break. However, the Gators succeeded in maintaining a 22-21 advantage by playing strong defense and limiting the Tigers’ scoring opportunities. In a reversal of its normal play, UF struggled massively scoring inside the arc, hitting just 4 of 15 shots in the opening 20 minutes as Castleton did nearly half of the scoring with 10 points.

Exceptional efforts: Castleton owned the first half, while Appleby took over in the second. Appleby finished with 26 points (20 in the second half) on 5 of 10 shooting from downtown; while he only had two assists to four turnovers, he made 7 of 8 free throws. Castleton split his points between both periods but finished with 19 on 7 of 13 shooting along with eight boards.

Odds and ends: Florida defeated a top-two team in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009 … the Gators matched their highest-ranked regular-season victory of all time with three such wins over No. 2 teams … Florida notched its highest-ranked win over an SEC opponent in program history … this was UF’s 10th all-time win against a top-three team but just its seventh in the regular season … Florida improved to 2-7 against top five, 6-15 against top 10, 10-20 against top 15 and 20-35 against top 25 teams under White; it is 0-4 against No. 1-ranked teams … the Gators are now 2-5 against AP Top 25 teams this season but 1-7 against top 15 teams

Auburn outrebounded Florida 38-27 and dominated paint scoring 26-14 … UF was stronger on the fastbreak (13-7) and more careful with the ball, holding an 11-17 turnover margin … the Gators led for 27:24, including 18:45 in the first half and the final 5:10 … senior G Myreon Jones’ hot shooting cooled off as he was 1 of 4 from long range … outside of Appleby and Castleton, the rest of the team combined to shoot 5 of 24 (.208) from the field with just 18 total points … Florida improved to 15-3 this season and 104-28 under White when allowing fewer than 70 points to an opponent

Court storming: Gators fans rushed the court for the first time in modern history after the win. Florida has not done so in any of its major sports to the recollection of most, but this was certainly a unique circumstance given the team’s play of late and the frenetic finish. O’Dome security and the University Police Department did a good job halting the storming and quickly getting fans off the court. For supporters and critics who are bashing the Gators for a weak rushing of the court, this is actually how those in charge are supposed to handle such situations for the safety of players, media and fans themselves. As for whether the fans should have stormed the court at all given that this is a two-time national championship-winning program … that’s a fair debate.

What it means: Like it or not, White may have earned himself a stay of execution. The coach’s seat ignited in flames Tuesday after Florida lost to Texas A&M, which had just dropped eight straight games in league play. That was coming off a 21-point drubbing UF took from No. 5 Kentucky on Feb. 12. It’s tough to ignore the way the Gators got up for this game, but it hardly ensures them a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and it certainly does not guarantee that White keeps his job. The most consistent thing about Florida is its inconsistency, and the lacking interest of fans and dwindling attendance for home games has surely been noticed by athletic director Scott Stricklin. If this game put UF back on the NCAA Tournament bubble, perhaps it put White’s job on the bubble, too.

What’s next: Florida benefits from rare consecutive home games on its schedule when it hosts Arkansas on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET in a game that will air live nationally on ESPN2. It will end the week at Georgia on Saturday before the final week of the regular season gets underway. The Gators will have another opportunity for in-season revenge and a ranked win as they host the Wildcats on Saturday, March 5 in the final game of the season.

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