Led by senior swing man Canyon Barry’s season high 30 points, the Gators shot a blistering 56% from the field and 58% from the three-point arc. Barry made his first three free throws on the evening before finally missing one. He finished with 42 made free throws in a row dating back to January 7, a Gator record.
The Gators had seven players score in double figures. Florida’s leading scorer on the season, sophomore guard Kevaughn Allen, struggled early and didn’t have a point in the first half, but finished with 17 points on the night.
Senior guard Kasey Hill added 12 assists, a new career high and is now third all-time in career assists as a Gator with 500 in his career and just three dishes away from second place Ronnie Montgomery. Hill also added 11 points on the evening.
Junior forward Devin Robinson was hitting from outside (3-5 from three point land) and had two spectacular dunks to finish with 14 points and six rebounds. Senior forward Justin Leon also hit from three (2-3) in finishing with 10 points and a team high 8 rebounds.
Junior guard Chris Chiozza added 11 points on a night where his minutes were cut short due to foul trouble.
Finally junior center John Egbunu scored 10 points in only 8 minutes as he left the game with a knee injury early in the first half and didn’t return. His prognosis is uncertain and the Gators found themselves in a bind at the basket with Egbunu out.
“His knee’s bothering him,” Florida head coach Mike White said after the game on the gators’ IMG Radio Network. “(Trainer) Duke iced him up at halftime and decided he was done. So, we rode those other fives with Keith (Stone) sliding over there and playing a few minutes at the five as well.
“We really struggled to guard (Auburn freshman center) Austin Wiley with his size and length and girth. He was tremendous, what a talent he is. John (Egbunu) got off to a great start so obviously we are keeping our fingers crossed and saying our prayers that he’ll be back soon enough. He’ll see the doctor tomorrow and get tested and we’ll see. Hopefully it’s not something major and we’ll get him back soon.
That was the story as we head away from the game, but the story of the game was Barry. Off of a bench that scored 52 points for the Gators on Tuesday, Barry was on fire scoring 19 of his 30 points in the first half and allowing the Gators to stay within striking distance.
“He single handedly kept us in the game in the first half when we had less edge than we have had in a while for whatever reason and I think a lot of it had to do with Auburn, White said. “They’re so potent offensively. They come at you from so many different ways, so many different angles. Different guys can score in a variety of different ways as well.
“We couldn’t find a defensive rhythm there and thank goodness Canyon gets whatever he got in the first half… he was just absolutely fantastic. I am very proud of him, very happy he’s a Gator. He got the game ball. He was unbelievable tonight.
The Gators have only had 14 wins in the previous 62 years at Auburn so doing so convincingly like they did is a big deal. A sloppy first half with the Gators giving up 10 turnovers, they settled down after 50-50 tie at half and got things going for the win.
White said it was just one of those nights for his team offensively.
“Just the way we shot it tonight, I think we would have scored on a lot of people, he said. “The way that we shot the ball… I know this, we couldn’t guard Auburn. We can sit here and feel great about scoring 114, but I don’t feel good about giving up 95. Auburn was terrific. They’re very young, very talented. We never got into a defensive rhythm outside of early in the second half which was very much needed.
“I felt like coming out of halftime, the five that were in there played with the most energy in the first half and got us going. We went on a quick 6-0 run and called a timeout. I thought it set the tone for a better defensive second half, not a great one, but definitely better than the first.
And that is when White also turned to Allen and pushed him through his slump to light it up in the second stanza.
“(It was) still good to see that sparkle in his eye where he looked to have the body language of that killer when he’s in a really aggressive attack mode,” White said if his 17-point second half outburst. “He stepped up and made some big plays, a couple of baskets there when they went on a little run themselves. He hit timely shots for us.
“Hopefully this was a spark for him to get back going. It would be easier for him if he’s getting the majority of shots every game, but just like he and Canyon and Devin and Justin Leon, we have a variety of guys that kind of have to take turns in terms of how their defended and who’s getting shots depending on how the defense is playing us on any given night.
It was a really good offensive night overall. Despite Barry and Allen missing a free throw each, the Gators shot 88% from the line on a massive 37-of-42 night from the charity stripe. The whistles were everywhere as Auburn was 27-of-39 from the free throw line.
The Gators are a very good defensive team, but have struggled this year giving up offensive rebounds to their opponents. Tonight was one of those nights as Auburn hauled down 18 offensive boards, a stat that White is going to make sure they hear about all week. The other issue was giving up points in the paint (50), and that can somewhat be explained by the limited time Egbunu was on the floor and also sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes with his foul trouble.
In all it was a good outing by the Gators. A team that has struggled offensively at times, found their rhythm throughout the contest, even on the road. The offensive outburst from this team over the last seven games is a stark contrast from what we saw from them a year ago and even from parts of the early season.
The Gators next head to Mississippi State (14-10, 5-7 SEC) on Saturday to play the Bulldogs in a 2 p.m. match up that will be aired live ion ESPN.
“We hope we can ride the momentum offensively and figure out how to get some stops on the defensive end,” White said.