Photography: Reinhold Matay

The Florida Gators Took Command Early On Their Way to an SEC Basketball Victory Vs. Auburn

Auburn couldn't handle the Florida basketball team as the Gators were dominant on the boards.

Kareem Canty (above) was held to a dozen points by the Gators.

Gainesville, Fla.--Early domination of the boards combined with strong three-point shooting in the contest  allowed the Florida Gators to take a big first half lead on the way to a dominating 95-63 SEC basketball victory over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday night.

Florida ended Auburn’s two-game winning streak and dropped the Tigers to 9-9 for the season and 3-4 in the SEC. The Gators improved to 13-6 overall and 5-2 in the league.

The 32-point loss was Auburn’s largest margin of defeat this season. The previous high was a 24-point setback at Xavier on Dec. 19th.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said he “didn’t see this coming” regarding the lopsided loss because he thought his team’s preparation for the game was good, but had praise for the Gators, who pleased the O'Connell Center crowd of 11,230 with their strong all-around performance.

“Florida is a very good team, they are a talented team  and they have beaten some really good teams this year,” Pearl said. “Every one of those guys that is on that roster, those guys chose between Florida and Kentucky and Duke, some of the best teams in the country. Those were all heavily-recruited kids. It is a very talented team that played well tonight, that played together.”

Photography: Reinhold Matay

Coach Bruce Pearl signals a play to his team on Saturday night at the O'Connell Center.

Pearl said the Gators “destroyed” the Tigers with their shooting, making nearly 57 percent of their field goals combined with a plus 13 rebound margin. 

Tyler Harris led the Tigers in scoring with 14 points while adding six rebounds. The senior hit 5-14 field goals.

Kareem Canty, who was 0-6 on three-pointers, scored 12 points for the Tigers while Jordan Granger, playing as a reserve, hit 3-4 treys while finishing with 11 points. Canty made 5-16 field goals.

Cinmeon Bowers led the Tigers in rebounds with nine, but struggled to score with four points while taking 13 field goals, including four treys.

Dorian Finney-Smith led the Gators with 24 points and eight rebounds. Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill scored 14 points apiece while John Egunu chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds.

Auburn hit 24-67 field goals (35.8 percent), 6-24 threes and 9-14 free throws. The Gators hit 33-58 field goals (56.9 percent), 9-19 threes and 20-24 free throws.

The Tigers turned the ball over 14 times, two fewer than the Gators. 

After hitting their first two shots to start the game to take their only lead of the night, the Tigers didn’t score again until a Granger three-pointer at the 13:34 to cut Florida’s lead to 20-8. Midway through the half the Gators led by 25 points thanks to hot shooting and domination of the boards.

At halftime the Tigers trailed 53-32 with the Gator big men, Finney-Smith and Egbunu dominating the action. Finney-Smith scored 15 points in the half and pulled in six rebounds. Egbunu scored 11 points and added six rebounds.

Halftime Numbers: The Tigers hit 12-36 field goals (33.3 percent), 5-17 threes and 3-6 field goals while the Gators made 18-33 (54.5 percent) from the field, 7-13 threes and 10-12 free throws. Florida out-rebounded Auburn 27-16 in the first half and turned the ball over eight times, four more than the Tigers, who were led in scoring by seven from Tyler Harris.

After intermission the Tigers were not able to make a run on the Gators, who came out hot shooting the basketball in the second half, making 60 percent of their field goals in the final 20 minutes.

Worth Noting, Part 1: The Gators have won nine straight matchups vs. the Tigers to cut Auburn’s lead to 87-77 in the series.

Worth Noting, Part 2: New Williams, who has been dealing with a knee problem, saw playing time in the second half and scored two points while adding two rebounds in 10 minutes of action.

Stats of the Game: The Gators made 33 field goals to just 24 for the visiting Tigers, who were outscored 44-28 for points in the paint.

Up Next: The Tigers will travel to Ole Miss for 6 p.m. game on Wednesday.

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