When the second-ranked Florida Gators (23-2, 12-0 SEC) host the Auburn Tigers (12-11, 4-8 SEC) tonight, there will be plenty of streaks on the line. When they met January 18 at Auburn, Florida survived an upset bid to win 68-61. And they certainly haven’t looked back since. The Gators are currently riding a 17-game winning streak, tied for best in school history, a 12-game SEC winning streak, their best start in conference play ever, a 6-0 conference road record, including that win at Auburn earlier in the season, and a UF record 29-game home winning streak, good for third in the nation. They’ll put it all on the line tonight against the Tigers with a chance to exceed the school record winning streaks set in the 2006 and 2007 national championship season and the opportunity to tie the ’07 team with the best start in school history.
Florida will have to do it all without their backup point guard, freshman Kasey Hill. Hill will likely be out with a groin injury after finding his groove recently. The Gators will use Dorian Finney-Smith, DeVon Walker, and Michael Frazier II to spell the reigning SEC Player of the Week, Scottie Wilbekin.
Speaking of Wilbekin, he has been on an absolute tear recently, topping scoring career-highs in three-out-of-the-last-four games. Wilbekin scored 23 in Florida’s Kentucky Wildcats 69-59, Enjoy First Win at Rupp Arena Since 2007″ href=”http://hailfloridahail.com/2014/02/16/florida-beats-kentucky-69-59-enjoys-first-win-rupp-arena-since-2007/” target=”_blank”>win at Kentucky just days Tennessee Volunteers in Second Half to Win 67-58″ href=”http://hailfloridahail.com/2014/02/11/florida-gators-clamp-down-on-tennessee-volunteers-in-second-half-to-win-67-58/” target=”_blank”>after scoring 22 at Tennessee. His production, both offensively and defensively, are the reasons why the Gators won in two places they struggle at and are title contenders.
Meanwhile, their opponent tonight has struggled this season. Auburn has recently gone 4-2 in the last six games, with the only losses to LSU and Kentucky, but those four wins are the lone victories of this years conference season. The Tigers did play both LSU and Kentucky close in those games, but were clearly overmatched in the end. This team is somewhat of an enigma with a win versus Georgia and a loss against Northwestern State. There is one thing for certain: Auburn competes well against better teams at home, but struggles on the road. Too bad for the Tigers, this game is at Florida.
Florida comes into the game with the nation’s 6th best scoring defense, allowing only 58 points per game. Auburn comes in 230th place, giving up 72 points, which is just about a point over what the Gators are scoring. The Florida offense struggles at times, scoring 71.1 points per game which is tied for 185th in the NCAA. The Tigers actually score more than the Gators, averaging 73.9 points for 103rd. Auburn’s main production comes from Chris Denson and KT Harrell. Denson averages 20.9 points and Harrell contributes 19.2, more than 4 points better than Florida’s leading scorer Casey Prather (15.7). For the Gators to be successful, Wilbekin, DeVon Walker, and Frazier will have to be diligent in their defense of the two guards.
Florida’s starters will likely stay the same as of late with senior forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete, senior center Patric Young, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Auburn will likely start senior forward Allen Payne, senior center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, senior guard Chris Denson, junior guard KT Harrell, and freshman guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
Tip-off is set for 7 pm in the O’Connell Center. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Florida or streaming on ESPN3 (subject to blackout). If you can’t see it, you can hear it on the Gator IMG Sports Network and on satellite radio on Sirius 108/XM 199.