Auburn blew a 10-point halftime lead and fell 71-60 on Sunday at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum to finish 9-5 in the SEC and 21-7 overall. Florida improved to 8-6 in the SEC and 18-9 overall.
It was Senior Day for Le'Coe Willingham, Nancy Derrick and Mandisha Stevenson. Willingham led her team in scoring with 16 points and added 10 rebounds. Stevenson contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds and Derrick added five points and three rebounds.
Junior guard Natasha Brackett, who hit just 3-15 field goals, added 11 points for Auburn.
Florida got 22 points and five rebounds from its big center, Vanessa Hayden, who hit 9-14 field goals. "We played with a lot of heart today," Hayden said. "The game was about want and we wanted it."
Auburn's Willingham helped put her team in good shape early in the game. "We broke down in the second half," Willingham said. "Florida put up a few threes back-to-back and our shots just didn't drop. We knew they would make a run, but we couldn't get our own run together."
Stevenson said, "A loss is a loss. We have to get over this game and get ready for the tournament."
Auburn went on a 13-3 run for the last four minutes of the first half to build a 36-26 lead. With the Tigers making only six field goals in the second half while shooting a dreadful 17 percent from the floor, the Gators outscored Auburn 45-24 to pull away with a 71-60 win.
"This was a game where we just went ice cold in the second half," said Auburn coach Joe Ciampi. "We couldn't get our shots to fall. We were running the same offense in the second half as we did in the first so that wasn't it. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong."
Except for out-rebounding Florida 52-40, the statistics looked dismal for AU. The Tigers were outshot 41.7 percent to 28.2 percent from the field. AU had a dozen turnovers, two more than the visitors.
Auburn now heads into the SEC Tournament as the No. 3 seed, its highest since 1993. After a first-round bye, the Tigers will play the winner of the opening round game between hometown Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The game is scheduled for Friday at 8:30 p.m. Central time at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.
"The thing about the tournament is we have to forget about today," Ciampi said. "We have to practice and get ready for more zones that are going to pack it in and try to clog the middle. Our shooting is going to have to be better and we are going to have to want to shoot the ball."
If Auburn plays Vandy, the Tigers will face a team that rallied for a pair of regular season victories over Auburn in Nashville and at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.