Tigers Look to Even Record in Game Vs. Gators

Auburn, Ala.--A Florida team trying to make a late season run to jump onto the NCAA Tournament bubble will play host to an Auburn team trying to climb back to .500 for the season on Thursday night.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. CST from the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., as the Auburn basketball team (12-13 overall, 3-7 in the SEC) takes on Coach Billy Donovan's Gators, who are 17-8 overall and 6-4 in the SEC.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

"They have five who are in double figures in scoring," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says. "They are pretty consistent as in years past, and their guard play is good. (Vernon) Macklin has made a difference for them, a transfer from Georgetown."

Macklin, a 6-10, 240 junior, is averaging 10 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Kenny Boynton, a 6-2 freshman guard, leads the Gators in scoring with an average of 14 points per game.

Alex Tyus, a 6-8, 220 junior, is Florida's top rebounder at 7.1 per game and is scoring 12.6 points per contest.

Erving Walker, a 5-8 sophomore guard, is averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 assists per contest.

Erving Walker is small and quick guard for the Gators.

The other starter, 6-9, 215 Chandler Parsons, is scoring 11.2 points per game.

More size comes from 6-8, 230 senior reserve forward Dan Werner, who is averaging 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds.

"They are a typical Florida team, which is a very good passing team," Lebo says. "Where they have not been typical, they have been inconsistent shooting the basketball. I think that has been the most frustrating thing for Billy this year, their inconsistent perimeter shooting.

"I think that is where they have struggled at times where they have had really bad nights from three," Lebo adds. "That is when they have lost games."

Florida is hitting 44.7 percent of its field goals and 31.1 percent on threes. Auburn is shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 32.1 percent on threes.

Auburn senior forward Lucas Hargrove comes into the contest following back-to-back double-doubles for points and rebounds. He says Florida's size and the skill of that team's big men will be a challenge on Thursday night.

Lebo says he likes how Hargrove has been playing. "The one thing we talked to him about is making quicker decisions with the ball. When he gets it either being able to immediately put it on the floor, shoot it or pass it. Early in the season, he held it. He pump faked and did a lot of other stuff and held the ball. He is much better when he makes an immediate decision with the ball. He has been making the right decisions for the most part with the ball."

Hargrove leads the Tigers in rebounding with 7.4 per game and is averaging 14 points per outing.

Auburn leads the overall series vs. Florida 87-68 and won the last meeting, 61-58, in the opening round of the 2009 SEC Tournament in Tampa. The Gators have a 43-30 edge in the series for games played in Gainesville and are 15-5 vs. the Tigers at the O'Connell Center.

Lebo is hoping for better play from senior point guard DeWayne Reed, who has struggled in recent games. Reed has been forcing the ball to the basket and too often the results have not been good for the 6-1, 175 guard, who is averaging 15.7 points and 4.3 assists per game.

"I think at times he has to be able to make better decisions on when to get into the painted area," Lebo says. "He gets in there and there are times when you get in there you have to pull it out, and you don't have to shoot. A lot of times a lot of their fastbreak opportunities were where he went in there and was laying on his back, and they come back five on four.

"Whether he is acting like he is getting fouled, getting fouled, he is falling down and all of a sudden while he is down and he misses, here comes the other team five on four," Lebo notes. "That is not a good thing.

"He has had trouble finishing in the league in there, Lebo says. "You look at his numbers when he got into conference play, his shooting percentages are around 33 percent from the field and under 30 from three in league play, and that has hurt us."

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