Gators Hold Off Tigers In Gainesville

The defending national champions pulled away from the Tigers in the game's closing minutes.

Gainesville, Fla.--Florida dominated the final five minutes as the Gators pulled away for 72-56 basketball victory over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday at the O'Connell Center.

Auburn trailed 58-54 after senior Frank Tolbert scored on a spin move in the lane with 5:15 to play, but the Tigers were outscored 14-2 the rest of the way as the Gators improved to 2-0 in the SEC and 15-2 overall.

Auburn fell to 0-2 in the conference and 9-5 overall.

"They play hard and they practice hard," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said of his team after the game. "I told them to keep their head up. It's not their fault they are in the situation they are in. It is just the luck of the draw. We have just got to get healthy and get them back there and good things will happen to us."

Lebo got another major scare on the injury front when junior Rasheem Barrett was helped off the court in the first half. "He came down on his foot funny," Lebo said. "He gutted it out really played on about a leg and a half. Quan Prowell hurt his knee. He was hobbling a little the first half. I just feel for the kids. I really do. I am proud of them. They competed and battled on the road.

"As a coach, on the road, under five (minutes left) when you have a chance to win you have got to feel good," Lebo added. "We did some good things. Shooting the basketball has been an issue for us. We have got to find a way to score. We can't win consistently scoring 56 points in a game."

The Tigers shot 41.8 percent from the field and made just 6-23 three-pointers. Florida hit 49.2 percent of its shots and 8-25 threes.

Auburn didn't help its cause with 19 turnovers, seven more than the Gators, who were out-rebounded 35-29 by the smaller Tigers.

Neither team went the foul line many times. Auburn was 4-4 and the Gators hit 6-8.

Prowell led the Tigers in scoring with 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Prowell hit 5-9 of his shots. Lucas Hargrove, who made 5-10 field goals, added 11 points and six rebounds in a reserve role. Tolbert scored 10 points, but turned the ball over six times.

Guards Jai Lucas and Nick Calathes led the Gators in scoring with 16 points apiece. Lucas hit 7-9 field goals and Calathes made 4-8 treys. Marreese Speights scored 14 points and led the Gators in rebounds with eight.

Auburn scored the first seven points, but the Gators bounced back to take the lead at 13-12. The Tigers led 17-15 when Barrett went down with his injury. He returned later in the half, but wasn't moving at full speed.

Neither team could take control in the opening half, but the Gators outscored the Tigers 7-3 in before intermission to lead 33-29 at the break.

Auburn made just 12-38 field goals in the first 20 minutes, but kept the game close by out-rebounding the Gators 27-17 in the first half. Florida hit 15-32 first half shots including 3-13 threes. AU made just 3-17 threes.

The closest the Tigers came to taking the lead in the second half was at 33-32 when Tolbert hit a three to start the period.

The Gators built their lead into double figures at the 14:37 mark at 47-37 on a tip-in by Speights. After a basket by Walter Hodge put the Gators up 51-39, Auburn began to steadily cut into the lead before narrowing the margin to four on back-to-back baskets by Tolbert. However, Auburn went cold shooting and Florida pulled away for the 16-point victory.

"I thought our kids executed our game plan very well with one day to get ready in a very tough turn-around situation," Lebo said. "We had the type of game we thought we needed to have. It was kind of a halfcourt situation, a low-scoring game.

"We got great looks," Lebo said. "Shooting the ball has just been an issue for us. The zoned us a ton, which we thought they would. They had been playing more zone. We had some key turnovers in the second half, but we battled. I think under five it was a four-point game."

Box Score

Boubacar Sylla played briefly before being injured early in the season.

Basketball Notes: Hargrove's return to action from injury has been a plus for the Tigers. "I thought the last few games, at least rebounding the ball, he has been pretty active on the offensive glass," Lebo said of the sophomore. "Defensively, for the most part he has been better and he has shot the ball fairly well. He took a couple of bad ones today. He gets excited. He hasn't played a whole lot. If we can get him to just make solid decisions with the ball, and not try to do to much, and just play within himself, he is a guy who has been improving. He hasn't had much practice with his injury, but gave us a nice lift off the bench today."...Auburn freshman center Boubacar Sylla, who has been injured several times this season, made the road trip and may be called upon to play later this month. "We are going to look at him through a week of practice and see how he responds," Lebo said. "He hasn't been out there. He needs to get some confidence with his foot. We will make a decision at that point."...The next game for the Tigers is a Wednesday road trip to LSU. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. CST.

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