Gators Sneak Out of Auburn with a Win

The Florida offense looked dead for 38 minutes. It was over five minutes since the Gators hit a field goal, but back-to-back three pointers from Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker in the final two minutes sealed the victory. The Gators snuck out with a 45-40 win at Auburn.

"Those guys have a competitive substance that when the game game isn't going well, they have the ability to focus in and hit a shot when we need one," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said on his post-game radio show.

Before the two late three-pointers, the Gators were 5-for-26 from behind the three-point line.

Boynton's three-pointer came with 1:53 remaining and tied the game at 40. Walker hit a three-pointer with 1:14 left in the game, giving Florida a 43-40 lead. With a three-point Florida lead, the Tigers ran down the floor and got a three-point look for Earnest Ross. He was 3-for-3 from distance before that, but lockdown defense from Kenny Boynton forced a miss.

"I just wanted to get a stop, but don't foul him," Boynton said.

The 45 points were the fewest points a Florida team has scored in Billy Donovan's 15 seasons. The previous low was 46, which came in a 2003 NCAA Tournament matchup with Michigan State.

The Gators shot 28.3% from the field, including 19.2% from behind the three-point line. Despite struggling from behind the three-point line, the guards continued to shoot from behind the line despite a distinct height advantage near the basket. Even when the guards did try a high-low past to get the ball to a post player near the basket, it was tipped away multiple times and turned into a Tigers fast break.

Auburn switched up their defense throughout the second half, but its zone defense kept the Gators at bay. Florida made only 15 shots from the field and went 10-for-14 from the free throw line, which had been a big issue in the past.

Instead, it was the Tigers who struggled from the free throw line. Auburn went only 1-for-8 from the free throw line, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Walker was the only player in double digits for Florida, checking in with 12 points.

The offensive struggles were evident early. The Gators ended the first half while missing 13 of their last 16 shots from the field, yet the Tigers took a 24-23 lead into halftime. Auburn had trailed by at least 19 points at halftime during each of their first three conference games this year.

"It was really a grind for our team to shoot the basketball," Donovan said. "That's really all it came down to. They were forcing our guys to make shots with their zone. It was a great win because everything went completely wrong."

Boynton and Walker combined to go 2-for-12 from the field.

If there is a benefit from an ugly offensive game, it was Florida's performance on the defensive side of the ball. They forced 13 turnovers and won the rebounding margin 34-27.

Florida returns home on Saturday night when they host Arkansas at 8 p.m.

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