Gators hold off Auburn in road win

Florida took the Tigers' best shot multiple times on Saturday. The Gators went up by 13 points with 4:55 left in the first half, but Auburn closed the half on an 18-6 run to force a close second half. Florida never trailed in the second half and responded to every Auburn run, completing a 68-61 win to become the only 4-0 team in Southeastern Conference play.

"We were very fortunate," Billy Donovan said. "This game was a game that could've gone either way. We didn't defend like we needed to. We really struggled on both ends of the floor. We weren't our best tonight. Sometimes you have to play poorly and still find a way to win. We found a way to win."

Auburn hit four field goals in the final six minutes of play, and Florida answered by scoring on the next possession three times. Whenever the Tigers tried to get back in the game or take a lead, the Gators had an answer. Florida led the entire second half and held off the Tigers from making a final charge to take the lead.

The Gators went to Patric Young for important baskets during the second half, and the senior center finished the game 5-8 from the field with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

With Florida up four and 25 seconds left, Auburn guard K.T. Harrell took the ball to the rim. Young stood straight up and stretched his arms out, blocking the shot and clinching the win.

"He held his ground and did a nice job," Donovan said. "On the drives tonight, we didn't do a good job (on defense). That was a drive where we did a great job."

The first half was all about Casey Prather. The senior forward was questionable to play before Florida announced that he would see normal minutes. He finished the game with 21 points while going 8-10 from the field and pulling down six rebounds.

Prather missed games against Arkansas and Georgia with a bone bruise on his knee, and Donovan wasn't sure what he'd get out of his senior. What happened was an important boost off the bench in the first half to get Florida off to a good start.

"Our trainers have done a great job," Donovan said. "I didn't think he was going to play very much. That went out the window at the half when he had 16 points. He played pretty good."

The rust didn't take long to come off for Prather. He practiced with Florida on Thursday and Friday to stay in shape and know what the plan was for Saturday, and once he got on the court and into the game, he felt like he didn't miss a game.

"It felt so great to come out here and play with my team," Prather said. "I'm just happy to be back. I was trying to be as aggressive as I could."

For as good as the seniors were down the stretch, sophomore Michael Frazier struggled. He was held scoreless for the first time all season and didn't make a three-pointer for the first time this season. He wasn't on the floor during the stretch run because of his struggles.

Donovan thinks it's a chance for Frazier to learn. After he scored a career-high 21 points against Georgia on Tuesday, the Auburn scouting report focused on taking Frazier out of the game.

"The Auburn coaches, the last thing they're doing is letting him get open and take a shot," Donovan said. "He's got to find ways to move, play the game without shooting it. We tried to do things to get him some shots, but you could see he was mentally taken out of the game. He's got to realize he can't play the game waiting for his next shot.

"When you come off a big game, you've got to be more focused and mentally prepared going into the next game because you know you'll see the other team's best. They're just not going to let you take that many threes."

Florida will stay on the road this week, playing at Alabama on Thursday at 7 p.m.


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