Gift-Wrapped For the Gators

Jeff Lebo's Tigers lost their SEC home opener in frustrating fashion.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn fell to 0-2 in the SEC with a 68-65 home loss as the Tigers gift-wrapped a basketball victory and presented it to the Florida Gators on Wednesday night.

After rallying from a 10-point first half deficit, Auburn tied the game at 48-48 with a running bank shot by Rasheem Barrett with 10:10 left to play.

Neither team scored again until the 7:32 mark when Barrett made a runner to give the Tigers a two-point lead.

Florida took the lead for good on a three-pointer by freshman guard Erving Walker with 4:08 remaining and Auburn's shooting deserted the Tigers in the closing minutes.

"It's a real bad feeling," said Barrett, who came off the bench to lead the Tigers in scoring with 15 points. "The worst feeling is that you gave it away. We had many opportunities where we should have took the game away from them."

One of the places the Tigers gave away the game was at the foul line. Auburn made just 10-21 free throws.

Auburn also couldn't take care of business from behind the three-point line. The Tigers made just 5-27 threes and two of those by DeWayne Reed came in the last seconds when the game was decided.

"Our shooting was so bad it was amazing we were even in the game," Lebo said.

"We got some good looks from our good shooters, too," Lebo added. "Tay (Tay Waller) struggled from three. Tez (Quantez Robertson) has been struggling mightily to put the ball in the basket. We made a valiant effort to stay in the game."

Senior Robertson was the leading offender on the free throws. He was 0-6 at the foul line and missed critical front ends of one-and-ones that could have tied the game with 3:33 to play and again with 2:23 to play.

On making foul shots, particularly when the game is on the line, Lebo said, "There is nothing you can do. It is up to them. If you are player you have got to be able to step to the line...especially a senior has got to be able to step to the line. In those situations that is who you want at the line. You have got to be able to make those shots."

Walter Hodge then hit a three-pointer from the corner after picking up a loose ball to stretch the Gators' lead to 60-55 with 1:11 left and the Tigers never seriously threatened to win after that. Ten seconds later Barrett missed a three-pointer and that was curtains for the home team.

The Tigers, who fell to 10-6 overall and 0-2 in the league, shot just 39.1 percent from the field. The Gators weren't much better, making just 39.7 percent.

With the way the Gators shot, Lebo said Auburn should have won the game. Florida hit just 5-23 threes, but was more respectable at the foul line making 13-19 attempts.

Lebo said the Tigers have now lost four games this season directly due to horrible foul shooting.

The Tigers fell into a quick hole dropping behind 6-0 before Korvotney Barber scored inside at the 17:25 mark, something he would do a lot of in the first half to keep the Tigers within shouting distance.

Korvotney Barber takes the basketball strong to the hoop.

At halftime Barber had scored 12 of the Tigers' 34 points as Auburn trailed by six. Barber was 6-6 from the field in the half and Hargrove was 5-7 for 11 points in the first 20 minutes.

Alex Tyus, a 6-8 sophomore, led the Gators in the first half with a dozen points as he missed just one of his six field goals.

Florida built the lead into double figures at 38-28 with 1:10 left, but the Tigers had a 6-2 run going into intermission.

The Tigers were outshot from the field 51.5 percent to 42.4 percent in the first half. Both teams struggled from three-point range. The Gators made just 1-7 while Auburn managed to make just 1-13 treys.

The Tigers also struggled on the boards where they were out-rebounded 22-12.

Florida finished the night with a 46-36 edge in rebounds. Auburn managed to keep the game close by having just 13 turnovers, four less than the visitors.

A crowd of 6,399 watched Barber score 14 points while Reed finished with 13 for the Tigers. Lucas Hargrove added 11 points and a team-leading eight rebounds, one more than Barber.

Waller scored nine points, but made just 3-13 field goals and was 1-8 on threes.

Nick Calathes led the Gators with 17 points and added nine rebounds and five assists. Tyus scored 14 and pulled in 12 rebounds. Kenny Kadju added 11 off the bench.

"I thought it was a huge win for us on the road," said Calathes, whose Gators improved to 2-0 in the league and 15-2 overall. "I thought we made some big shots at the end."

Auburn returns to action with a 1 p.m. home game on Saturday vs. Alabama.

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