Florida 72, Auburn 66
KeVaughn Allen has been a magician at times this year. He has found himself the ability to appear and disappear almost at will.
Fortunately, for Florida fans and for the Gators NCAA tournament hopes, Allen reappeared after a disappointing effort against Tennessee on Wednesday.
Allen, who didn’t start because he was late for a film session Friday night, finished with a game high 24 points on 6-10 (and 8-15 overall) from behind the three-point line.
The Gators had built a 14-point lead early in the second half, but watched as Auburn chipped away. Auburn took a 64-63 lead with just under two minutes remaining in regulation. Allen nailed a 3-pointer just after and Florida never looked back.
Biggest takeaway: Mike White started freshmen Mike Okauru and Dontay Bassett thanks to Allen, Keith Stone, and Kevarrius Hayes being disciplined for arriving late to film study on Friday.
While Okauru made little impact on the outcome, Bassett played a much more vital role. Bassett finished with a career-high 12 points 6 rebounds in twenty-four minutes.
While Bassett clearly outplayed Hayes (2 points, 0 rebounds, 2 blocks), it is important to note that Auburn plays much like Florida, lacking a dominant inside/post presence.
However, if Bassett can provide the depth that Florida needs in the post, the Gators will be much better served in the stretch run.
The not-so-good: Florida got lucky. There is no denying it. Auburn forced shots in the final minute that didn’t have a prayer of going down.
Florida’s free throw shooting was atrocious for most of the game. After Chris Chiozza missed two foul shots with :52 left, the Gators had made only 3-11. Florida finished 7-16 thanks to Auburn’s quick-foul strategy after said ugly shots.
Up next: Florida will face Alabama on Tuesday.
The Gators are now in a four way tie for third place in the SEC. Alabama is one game back and Kentucky (Florida’s other remaining opponent) is tied with Florida.
A couple of wins will propel Florida into a first round bye in the SEC Tournament, while a pair of losses will make an SEC Championship run extremely difficult.