Gators use balance to pound Auburn

When Billy Donovan’s teams are playing well, the scoring is balanced and spread through as many players as possible.

On Thursday night, that formula returned.

Ten different Florida players scored and five players scored between 9-14 points during a blowout 75-55 win over Auburn, keeping the Gators perfect in the Southeastern Conference through three league games.

“I’ve always felt like these guys are an unselfish group,” Billy Donovan said. “Their intention has always been to play unselfishly. They’ve got a better idea and are playing with each other more. We have a better idea of what we’re trying to do.”

Playing well wasn’t the problem for Florida during the non-conference schedule. They did it at times, but it was nowhere near consistent enough to put together complete games and close out teams on Florida’s difficult non-conference schedule. On Thursday, they put together a third-straight consistent effort in league play.

The result of the early season struggles was a rocky start to the season and the worst since over 20 years before Billy Donovan took over the program.

The SEC isn’t loaded with talent this year and Florida will face better teams than it has through the first three in the SEC. But what Thursday showed is that this team is coming together. The Gators haven’t had their full complement of players much this season, but they did on Thursday for the first time since the beginning of the Florida State game on December 30, which lasted just minutes before a foot injury took Eli Carter out.

When the Gators are healthy and have a full team, it’s an unselfish team that can succeed because of their balance.

“When 10 guys score, we have a good chance of winning the game because they can’t just key on one person,” said Kasey Hill, who had 12 points, seven assists and zero turnovers. “It creates space for everyone else on the court. When we move the ball and play together, a lot of people score.”

The first half box score tells the story. Nine different Florida players scored between 2-8 points, and it was point guard Hill, usually resigned to setting up his teammates, that led the Gators with eight first-half points. Auburn played the Gators tight on the perimeter to take away 3-point shooting, but that also created plenty of room for the Tigers to get beat off the dribble.

Hill and Chris Chiozza did that perfectly, taking the ball to the rim for their points or dumping it off to a big man for a layup.

Dorian Finney-Smith, who led the Gators with 14 points, was a big part of last year’s team and saw what unselfishness can do for the group. It’s starting to show up on the floor again this year.

“Great team win,” Finney-Smith said. “Guys are unselfish, guys are engaged. Everybody is playing well together, passing and moving the ball. We’re a hard team to beat when four or five guys are in double figures.”

And it looked like it on Thursday.


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