Tigers Can't Overcome Scoring Droughts Vs. UF

The visiting Auburn basketball Tigers fell 75-55 to the Florida Gators in their second SEC road game of the season.

K.T. Harrell (above) struggled offensively as he finished with eight points, nine under his season average.

Gainesville, Fla.--Florida dominated Auburn the bench scoring and points-in-the-paint statistics to spark the Gators to a 75-55 SEC basketball victory on Thursday night at O’Connell Center.

Florida’s bench scored 36 points to 12 for the visiting Tigers. The Gators finished with 36 points in the paint to just 16 for Auburn.

The Tigers’ record falls to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in the SEC while the Gators improved to 3-0 in the league and 10-6 overall.

Florida took control in the first half as the Tigers went on a scoring drought that lasted for more than seven minutes. Auburn had another scoring drought in the second half that lasted for more than five minutes.

Despite the Gators leading by 24 points in the second half at 47-23, Auburn made a late run and was in striking distance after cutting the lead to 63-53 with 5:19 left after treys by K.T. Harrell, Antoine Mason and Jordon Granger. However, the Gators regained control in the closing minutes.

Mason was Auburn’s leading scorer with 13 points while Cinmeon Bowers posted his 10th double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The Gators did a good job of defending Auburn’s leading scorer, Harrell, who hit just 3-13 field goals on the way to scoring eight points.

Shooting was a major issue for the Tigers. Auburn hit just 32.7 percent (16-49) from the field while Florida shot 47.5 percent making 28-59 shots. Auburn was 6-18 on threes while Florida hit 7-18. The Tigers made 17-26 free throws while the Gators hit 12-18.

Four Gators scored in double figures led by 14 points from Dorian Finney-Smith.

“They just drove the ball to the paint and we couldn’t stop them,” said Bruce Pearl, who said the Tigers need to quickly turn their focus to Saturday’s home game.

“You have got to play well to win on the road and we did not play well early,” added the Auburn coach, who noted his team’s two scoring droughts were major issues on Thursday night.

“It’s not about a system matchup, I have beaten Billy Donovan eight times in my career,” Pearl said. “We know what to do, but our kids were just a little overwhelmed tonight. K.T. gets two fouls early and struggles and he doesn’t normally struggle like that. When he struggles, we are going to struggle.

“To only turnover those guys over nine times, I thought that was a real key,” Pearl said. “That is not Auburn basketball. We get after people. We turn over people.”

Halftime Numbers: The Tigers trailed 37-20 at the break after hitting just 6-27 field goals for 22 percent while Florida made 15-30 shots. The Tigers were 1-7 on threes and 7-10 at the foul line while being out-rebounded 22-18. Florida hit 3-9 threes and 4-6 free throws while turning the ball over five times, one less than the Tigers. Florida outscored Auburn 23-8 in bench points in the half. Harrell was scoreless at the break for the Tigers, who were led by Mason’s six points.

For the game Florida was plus four in rebounds and turned the ball over just nine times, four less than the Tigers.

Alex Thompson came off the bench to score seven points for the Tigers while K.C. Ross-Miller finished with six points.

Worth Noting: The Tigers are 0-5 in games played on the opponent’s home court. “We have too many veterans to go on the road and not play better,” Pearl said.

Stat Of the Game: Auburn’s point guards, Ross-Miller, Tajh Shamsid-Deen and Malcolm Canada, took 11 field goals and made just two while combining for just two assists. Florida’s points guards finished with nine assists and no turnovers. “Florida’s point guard play was really good,” said Pearl.

Up Next: The Tigers will return to Auburn Arena for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Saturday vs. South Carolina.

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