Florida Gators Survive Upset Bid by Auburn Tigers, Keep Streaks Alive

 

Casey Prather

Feb 19, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators forward Casey Prather (24) and forward Jacob Kurtz (30) celebrate after they beat the Auburn Tigers at Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: ©Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators (24-2, 13-0 SEC) escaped with a 71-66 win against the Auburn Tigers (12-12, 4-9 SEC). The Gators, barely, kept several streaks alive, including their 30th-straight win at home (tied for first in the nation), a school-record 18 consecutive wins, a 13-0 record to start SEC play, and 6 straight against Auburn. Patric Young had a huge game for Florida, leading the Gators with 17 points, including three free throws and a monster rebound in the last 19 seconds to put UF up for good.

The beginning of the game had all the makings of a high-scoring football affair, but the offenses started to figure it out with about 13 minutes to play in the first half. Florida started the game shooting 3-13 from the field. Auburn wasn’t much better shooting only 1-7.  The Tigers shot 12-16 for the rest of the half, including 14 points on 4-6 from beyond the arc from Tahj Shamsid-Deen. Auburn led 38-30 at the half, the largest deficit of the year for Florida. The Gators had only 10 baskets, six of which were three-pointers. Casey Prather led Florida with 10 points going into the break. Auburn shot a blistering 56.5 percent (13-23) from the field, including 66.7 percent (6-9) from three-point range. In comparison, Florida shot 34.5 percent and 42.9 percent, respectively.

Florida came back to start the second half, going on an 11-3 run. Scottie Wilbekin threw up back-to-back lobs to Young and Prather to get Florida back in the game. Will Yeguete’s pretty feed to Young tied the game at 41, but the Tigers came back to lead 51-45. The Gators went on another 11-3 with 8:47 left in the game. Wilbekin’s floater in the lane put Gators up 54-51.

But it was back-and-forth basketball until the final buzzer rang. The Gators and Tigers tied six times and had nine lead changes. The game was tied with 18.6 seconds left when Young hit two from the charity stripe to put Florida up for good. Auburn had a chance to tie or take the lead, but they threw the ball away on the ensuing in bounds pass. Wilbekin hit two more free throws and Young hit one more to put the game at its final score of 71-66.Young has been great in second half, Big points, rebounds, block.

Young was great for the Gators in the second half, scoring all 17 of his points and coming up with big rebounds and a block in which he went full court to get. He finished the game with those 17 points on 5-7 shooting and 7-9 free throws, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. Prather scored 16 for Florida on 6-8 shooting, with 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Wilbekin added another 15 points with 4 assists.

While all the attention was on the SEC’s leading scorer Chris Denson and league’s fifth-leading scorer KT Harrell, Shamsid-Deen went off with 17 points, hitting 5-8 from three-point land. Shamsid-Deen was averaging just about 9 points. Denson still had 15 points and 5 assists. Harrell collected 14 points with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

Florida for the game shot 40 percent (20-50) and a 33.3 percent (8-24) three-point field goal percentage. The biggest stat may be the Gators 82.1 percent (23-28) from the charity stripe. Auburn cooled down in the second half, shooting 47.8 percent (22-46) and a red-hot 52.6 percent (10-19) from beyond the arc. The Tigers struggled at the free throw line, shooting 70.6 percent (12-17) with some big misses down the stretch. Florida out-rebounded Auburn 36-22 and had 14 assists on 20 made shots. The Tigers had 11 dimes on 22 makes. The Gators out-blocked the Tigers 3-2 and both teams had 9 turnovers, including 3 by Wilbekin, his first since playing Alabama.

Florida next travels to Oxford to take on the Ole Miss Rebels (16-10, 7-6 SEC) Saturday with a chance to sit atop the rankings. Ole Miss sits tied for fourth in the SEC. Tip-off is set for noon.

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Topics: Florida Gators, Men's Basketball

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