Tigers Push No. 2 Gators To The Limit In Loss

Auburn gave second-ranked Florida a scare on Wednesday night before the Gators pulled out a victory in Gainesville.

Gainesville, Fla.--On the road at Florida looking to break a 17-game winning streak by the Gators (24-2, 13-0), Coach Tony Barbee's Auburn Tigers came up just short in their upset bid as Patrick Young's 17 second half points propelled his team to a 71-66 victory.

Playing well for much of the game, it was a late turnover that spelled doom for the Tigers (12-12, 4-9) in a back-and-forth contest.

"I'm proud of the guys, but I'm also disappointed for them in the same breath," Barbee said following the loss. "I thought our guys deserved to win. At the same time you have to give Florida credit; it's what they are, a championship team. They don't beat themselves.

"We beat ourself in those waning moments. They didn't beat themselves and give them credit, that's why they are what they are. That's what we aspire to be where they are because they have that kind of championship mettle."

Locked in a tight game with the team that could be number one in the country next week because of a loss by top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night, Auburn had a chance to pull ahead late thanks to some strong play by senior Asauhn Dixon-Tatum in the paint against Young and company.

Chris Denson drives to the basket on Wednesday night.

Back and forth the entire second half, Auburn found itself leading 65-63 following a pair of Chris Denson free throws. Getting in the face of the Gators defensively and with the shot clock running down Dixon-Tatum swatted a Florida shot out of bounds with just six seconds on the shot clock. Forced to rush the possession, the Gators got a wild shot off that bounced off the rim and right into the hands of the Auburn center.

With possession of the ball and leading by two with just over one minute remaining the Tigers put the ball in the hand of true freshman Tahj Shamsid-Deen. Already with 17 points on the night, Shamsid-Deen got into the lane but his layup attempt rolled off the rim to give Florida possession and a chance to tie the game or take the lead.

K.T. Harrell shoots vs. the Gators.

Struggling on the night with just six points on 2-9 shooting, Michael Frazier didn't miss on his biggest attempt of the night as he knocked down a wide open three to put Florida back in front 66-65 with 40.5 seconds left in the game.

Trying to get a shot for the speedy Denson, Auburn ran an offensive set before the senior pulled the ball back out near midcourt. Trying to get around a Florida defender Denson was hammered, sending him to the free throw line with a chance to put the Tigers back in front.

Making the first to tie the game, Denson missed the second as Young rebounded the ball. Deciding to put Young on the line instead of risk playing defense against the Gators, Dixon-Tatum grabbed Young around the waist for a foul. Just a 57 percent free throw shooter, Young calmly drained both with just 19.4 left to put Florida in front 68-66.

Several times on the night Auburn had looked out of sync trying to inbound the ball following a made basket and that was again the case as Allen Payne had nobody to inbound the ball to despite no backcourt pressure from the Gators. Seeing Harrell in front of the Florida bench, Payne sent a pass his way, but Harrell wasn't expecting the ball. It bounced off his arm and out of bounds for the turnover. Forced to foul Scottie Wilbekin, Auburn could only watch as he sunk two free throws to finish off Auburn's upset bid.

"Like I told these guys, Asauhn's foul didn't cost us the game," Barbee said. "Chris' missed free throws didn't cost us the game. It was their ability to go get 12 offensive rebounds that cost us the game. They got so many more extra possessions because of those rebounds."

For the game Auburn connected on 48 percent of its shots, including 10-19 from behind the arc. The difference in the game came at the free throw line as the Tigers connected on 12-17 from the charity stripe while Florida drained 23-28 with many of those coming down the stretch. The Gators outrebounded Auburn 36-22.

While Denson and Harrell continued their strong play for the Tigers, combining for 29 points, the story of the game for Auburn was the freshman point guard Shamsid-Deen. Pouring in 17 points and turning the ball over just once while battling through cramps, Barbee said his young point guard showed a glimpse of what the future is going to be like for Auburn basketball.

"He doesn't care," Barbee said of seeing his young player thrive in the big game. "He doesn't care who it is or where it is. He's a winner, a big-time winner. He did it all through his high school career. That's why he won three state championships. He won on every level and that's why he's going to win big-time on this level. His best basketball as he's learning and growing is way ahead of him."

Auburn got off to the start that Barbee was looking for against one of the hottest teams in the country. Led by the shooting of Shamsid-Deen and the inside play of Dixon-Tatum, the Tigers to a 38-30 advantage into the break. Racing out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, Auburn held the lead for the first 10 minutes of the game before a Casey Prather jumpshot put Florida in front 17-15. Moments later he added a free throw for a three-point Florida advantage, but Auburn would soon go on a roll to finish off the first half.

Dixon-Tatum started it off with a jumper and Denson followed with a basket of his own at the 8:21 mark to put the Tigers back in front 19-18. Just under one minute later Shamsid-Deen drained a three to make it a four-point Auburn advantage. A Payne basket and yet another three from the freshman point guard put the Tigers up 27-18 with 5:54 remaining. In just under three minutes Auburn outscored the Gators 12-0 to take control of the first half.

The Gators managed to cut the Auburn lead back to just two with 3:50 remaining in the first half, but the Tigers closed out the first 20 minutes by outscoring Florida 9-3 to take a 38-30 lead into intermission.

Auburn returns home Saturday to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. The tip is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Auburn Arena.

AUBURN (12-12, 4-9 SEC)>
Shamsid-Deen, Tahj 6-11 0-0 17; Denson, Chris 5-11 5-8 15; Harrell, KT 4-11 4-5 14; Payne, Allen 3-6 0-0 8; Dixon-Tatum, Asauhn 1-1 3-4 5; Atewe, Matthew 2-3 0-0 4; Wade, Dion 1-2 0-0 3; Granger, Jordon 0-0 0-0 0; Canada, Malcolm 0-1 0-0 0; Thompson, Alex 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 12-17 66.

FLORIDA (24-2, 13-0 SEC) Young, Patric 5-7 7-9 17; Prather, Casey 6-8 4-5 16; Wilbekin, Scottie 4-14 4-4 15; Frazier, Michael 3-10 0-0 9; Walker, DeVon 2-3 0-0 6; Yeguete, Will 0-2 5-6 5; Finney-Smith, Dorian 0-5 3-4 3; Kurtz, Jacob 0-0 0-0 0; Walker, Chris 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 23-28 71.
Auburn.............. 38 28 - 66
Florida.................30 41 - 71

3-point goals--Auburn 10-19 (Shamsid-Deen, Tahj 5-8; Payne, Allen 2-3; Harrell, KT 2-5; Wade, Dion 1-2; Denson, Chris 0-1, Florida 8-24 (Frazier, Michael 3-9; Wilbekin, Scottie 3-8; Walker, DeVon 2-3; Finney-Smith, Dorian 0-4).
Fouled out--Auburn-Payne, Allen, Florida-None. Rebounds--Auburn 22 (Dixon-Tatum, Asauhn 7), Florida 36 (Prather, Casey 9). Assists--Auburn 11 (Denson, Chris 5), Florida 14 (Wilbekin, Scottie 4). Total fouls--Auburn 22, Florida 17.
Technical fouls--Auburn-None, Florida-None.
A-12,414 Fouled Out--AU#2 A.Payne fouls out at :04.1(2)

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