Playing in front of a crowd of 6,090, the seventh largest for a women's game in Auburn history and biggest since 2002, the Tigers improved to 17-0 and 1-0 in the league. Florida, winners of 15 straight coming in, dropped to 15-2 and 0-1 in the SEC.
"It was phenomenal," Auburn head coach Nell Fortner said of the crowd. "It's what you always want. I am so pleased with it because it truly gives you a home-court advantage. The crowd was in it from the tip and they gave us energy in the second half."
It was a team effort for the Tigers as DeWanna Bonner had 29 points and 11 rebounds, Sherell Hobbs chipped in 23 points, Whitney Boddie added 14 points and dished out 11 assists and KeKe Carrier had eight points, six points and seven blocked shots in a reseerve role.
"I'm very excited about the win," Fortner said. "It was a big win. Every win you get in this league is special because they're hard to come by. I'm very proud of this team. We did some really good things and I thought we shot the ball really well. There were a lot of very good individual performances today, but it was a team effort."
The only lead for Florida during the game was at 5-4 as Boddie to Bonner for two became a common occurrence during the first half in transition.
"That was just part of our plan," Bonner noted. The Tigers had 12 fast-break points to zero for Florida. "We knew that they really didn't get back in transition defense well. I ran out and Whit was able to get me the ball."
Florida head coach Amanda Butler said of Boddie and Bonner, "You can tell those jokers have been playing together for a while."
The game remained close for much of the first half as Sha Brooks' penetrating ability forced Auburn to play much more zone defense than anticipated. The 2-3 zone made it difficult for Auburn to rebound on the defensive end as the Gators pounded the offensive glass in the first half. Florida had 12 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes, and because Auburn was making most of its shots from the field, the Gators had just five defensive boards at intermission.
Brooks came in averaging a team-high 14.5 points per game, but was just 3-18 shooting versus Auburn.
"The funny thing is I would have felt like she scored 20 points," Fortner said. "We couldn't guard her with our man, but she struggled shooting the ball today."
With Bonner's run-outs and Hobbs' hot shooting from the baseline, Auburn built as much as a 10 point lead in the first half at 23-13. The Gators narrowed it to two at 39-37, but Bonner banked one in from the top of the key at the buzzer to give Auburn a five-point lead and momentum in the second half.
Carrier missed three point-blank shots in the first half, but was a big part of the Tigers' success in the final 20 minutes. Six of her eight points and five of her seven blocks were in the second half.
"I did see it coming and I knew it would happen at some point," Fortner said of Carrier's second half performance. "We hoped it would happen as we started into SEC and this part of our season. She came out and played like a warrior today. She's such a defensive presence inside and on offense you have to respect her.
"She makes a difference whether she's scoring or not," Fortner continued. "If she's not scoring on the blocks she's making somebody or two people guard her. She's a matchup nightmare for some people."
Carrier was a difference-maker in the second half.
The Tigers claimed a 64-48 advantage with less than 10 minutes to play, but Florida cut it to single digits. However, Hobbs responded with a pair of threes and the Tigers never looked back.
Hobbs shot 12 times and didn't go to the free throw line, but was an efficient 10-12 from the field and 3-3 on threes for her 23 points.
"I can't say enough about it," Fortner said of Hobbs' sharp-shooting. "She just had the hot hand. I thought the two threes in the second half were her biggest shots."
Florida had knocked off three ranked opponents this season, but were unsuccessful in unseating the Tigers, ranked eighth in the coaches' poll and ninth in the AP. Butler said she felt like her team saw Auburn's best on Sunday. "We just got out-played today by a very, very good ball team. I think it was a fantastic environment for women's basketball. It was a great game to be a part of.
"Auburn had an answer for everything we tried to do and they played a fantastic ball game," Butler added. "I felt like we saw their best tonight, and it was certainly good. They did a great job of preparing for us and their team played like a veteran club."
Auburn next game is at Arkansas next Sunday at 2 p.m. CST.
AUBURN 81, FLORIDA 65
FLORIDA (15-2, 1-1 SEC) Dotson,Marshae 5-9 3-3 13; Brooks,Sha 3-18 5-6 11; Smith,Sharielle 4-10 0-0 10; Sorensen,Steffi 3-9 0-0 9; Thompson,Lonnika 2-6 1-2 7; Henry,Aneika 2-4 2-4 6; Lucas,Trumae 2-3 0-0 6; Yenser,Susan 1-4 0-0 3; Stewart,Azania 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 11-15 65.
AUBURN (17-0, 2-0 SEC) Bonner, DeWanna 10-19 8-9 29; Hobbs, Sherell 10-12 0-0 23; Boddie, Whitney 4-6 6-7 14; Carrier, KeKe 4-8 0-4 8; Jackson, Trevesha 2-5 1-2 5; Smalley, Alli 1-4 0-0 2; Jennings, Morgan 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-55 15-22 81.
Florida 37 28 65
Auburn 42 39 81
3-point goals--Florida 10-26 (Sorensen,Steffi 3-9; Smith,Sharielle 2-4; Lucas,Trumae 2-2; Thompson,Lonnika 2-2; Yenser,Susan 1-3; Brooks,Sha 0-6), Auburn 4-8 (Hobbs, Sherell 3-3; Bonner, DeWanna 1-3; Smalley, Alli 0-2).
Fouled out--Florida-None, Auburn-None.
Rebounds--Florida 39 (Henry,Aneika 8; Dotson,Marshae 8), Auburn 32 (Bonner, DeWanna 11).
Assists--Florida 14 (Brooks,Sha 6), Auburn 16 (Boddie,Whitney 11).
Total fouls--Florida 14, Auburn 10.