Florida at Auburn score, takeaways: Gators falter late in nail-biter, continue worst start since 2014-15

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 28, 2022
Florida at Auburn score, takeaways: Gators falter late in nail-biter, continue worst start since 2014-15

Image Credit: UAA

The likelihood of a losing season is creeping in for the Florida Gators, which remain off to their worst start since 2014-15 after falling 61-58 to the No. 20 Auburn Tigers on Wednesday night in Auburn, Alabama. Despite holding a halftime lead and the advantage with less than 5 minutes to play, the Gators faltered late by giving up their lead and committing a turnover on their penultimate possession.

It was in Billy Donovan’s final season at the helm that Florida suffered its last losing campaign. However, that team had been decimated by roster departures with a coach ready to depart for the NBA, while this one is filled with transfers brought in by first-year head coach Todd Golden.

The Gators on Wednesday shot worse than 16% from downtown for the second straight game. Two of their best players are experiencing simultaneous cold streaks stretching nearly a month, and they are simply unable to come up with big baskets across key stretches of games.

What went wrong at Auburn as Florida lost for its third time in four games? Keep on reading for some Fastbreak Takeaways.

It was over when … redshirt senior forward Colin Castleton turned the ball over with 6 seconds remaining. Florida found itself trailing 59-58 with 18 seconds left only for Castleton to get his pocket picked while attempting to back down a defender in the paint. (Castleton is clearly not a ball-handler, nor was he playing well in the game, which made this decision questionable.) Auburn scored a fastbreak layup the other way to go up three, and UF heaved up a shot well before the buzzer that did not fall.

The Gators led 54-50 with 4:37 to play only to see the Tigers score six straight points off a stick-back basket, fastbreak layup from a turnover and fastbreak dunk of a missed free throw. The visitors retook the lead at 58-57 with 1:34 left only to allow a layup 20 seconds later that gave the hosts a lead it would not relinquish.

First half focus: Florida was again ice cold on the floor as it struggled to find the bottom of the net. The Gators did not score a basket for 8:13 down the stretch of the opening period, ultimately finishing 8 of 22 from the field and 1 of 8 from downtown. However, they made 9 of 10 free throws, outscored the Tigers 8-3 over the final 2:49 and forced 12 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes to hold a short lead at the break.

Exceptional efforts: Sophomore guard Kowacie Reeves was by far Florida’s most consistent scorer with 15 points on a 7 of 14 effort from the field; however, Reeves — like the rest of the Gators — struggled massively from beyond the arc, hitting 1 of 5 attempts. Sophomore F Alex Fudge was also excellent with nine points on 4 of 6 shooting to go along with four rebounds, a block and a brilliant steal in the game’s waining moments. No one other than them shot better than 50%.

Odds and ends: Florida fell to 82-91 all-time against Auburn with a 27-58 record on the road … the Gators are now 0-6 against Quadrant I and II opponents this season … this was Florida’s second (consecutive) loss when leading at halftime (6-2) … the Gators are now 0-5 when scoring fewer than 75 points and 0-5 when being outrebounded … Florida was outrebounded 40-28 (17-5 offensively) … the Gators shot 15.8% from downtown; they are now 5 of 41 from 3-point range over the last two games and have shot worse than 20% from long range four times this season

Castleton scored six points (1/6 FG) with a team-high eight boards and game-high four dimes; he has now scored less than 13 points in seven of his last eight games after starting the season on a tear … junior G Trey Bonham committed two fouls on 3-point shots (one questionable) … redshirt senior G Myreon Jones tied his season-high with 10 points, but he made just 1 of 4 triples and scored half from the line (5/6 FT) … sophomore G Will Richard, who scored double digits in his first six games with the Gators, finished 0/5 FG and 0/4 3PT with two points; he is now 4/22 in his last four games with 13 points

What it means: Florida’s downward spiral continues, not that it was playing particularly well before dropping three of its last four games. The Gators put up a legitimate fight against an extremely talented and well-coached Tigers team; there is no doubt about that. In fact, UF probably pulls off the upset 50% of the time if faced in the same situation over the final 2 minutes. However, Florida again faltered when it mattered in a key spot, and it has indeed dropped two of its last three.

Beyond that, individual players are seeing their level of on-court success decline. Castleton and Richard are the most obvious examples as two of the Gators’ top performers have become nearly irrelevant across the last month. Whether those are ill-timed slumps or a product of coaching remains to be seen, but it’s an odd coincidence to see both struggling to produce simultaneously.

What’s next? The schedule eases up as Florida gets another week off before hosting consecutive games against Texas A&M (Wednesday) and Georgia (Saturday). The Bulldogs are 10-3 in Year 1 under former Gators head coach Mike White.

Join The

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux