Gators Get a Badly Needed Win

Junior Chandler Parsons led a quartet of Florida starters in double figures with 17 points and senior Dan Werner led a strong effort off the bench as the Gators ended a two-game losing streak with a 78-70 SEC win over a scrappy Auburn squad Thursday night before 10,103 at the O'Connell Center.

Point guard Erving Walker scored 14 points – all from the free throw line – and Alex Tyus and Kenny Boynton added 12 and 10 points, respectively, as the Gators improved to 18-8 overall and 7-4 in SEC play, keeping UF tied for third in the SEC standings with No. 18 Tennessee.

The loss dropped the hard-luck Tigers, who had lost their last two SEC road games in overtime, to 12-14, 3-8.

"I really felt coming into the game that Auburn was playing the best basketball they've played all year long," said UF head coach Billy Donovan. "They probably could have won their last four games, but went 2-2."

In ending their brief slide, the Gators, who were only 50 percent from the free throw line in losses to South Carolina and Xavier, went to the charity stripe 40 times and made 32, both season-high marks, to shoot an impressive 80 percent and take advantage of 29 Auburn fouls. Leading the way was Walker, who was 0-for-6 from the field but knocked down 14-of-16 free throws, with his attempts and makes both season-highs for a UF player.

The Gators also got great effort off the bench led by Werner, who had his best outing since UF's SEC opener against Vanderbilt. He scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and had four assists, four rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes of action. Freshman Erik Murphy also gave UF a lift, especially in the first half when he hit all three of his shots and scored all seven of his points.

Defensively, Werner and Tyus teamed to hold Auburn's Lucas Hargrove, a 6-6, 205-pound senior who came into the game averaging 14 points and 7.4 rebounds a game, to a season-low two points and four boards.

"I was really really happy for Dan Werner," Donovan said. "The unfortunate part for Dan is that people just do not understand his value and what he brings to our team. For me as a coach with three games remaining, it was great to see him play with a lot of energy and fire and have some success out there."

Senior guard DeWayne Reed of Auburn led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, while fellow senior Tay Waller had 13 and backup center Brendon Knox came off the bench to add 10 points.

Tyus and Waller tied for game-high rebounding honors with seven each, while Parsons grabbed six. UF shot 44 percent (22-of-50) from the field while Auburn was right behind at 43.4 percent (23-of-53). Both teams, however, struggled from 3-point range, with UF connecting on just 2-of-10 (20 percent) while the Tigers, who came into the game averaging 26 3-point attempts per game, launched 29 shots from beyond the arc and only made seven (21.4 percent).

The Gators will have little time to enjoy the win as they face Ole Miss, another SEC team playing for its NCAA-Tournament life, in Oxford Saturday at noon ET. The Gators enter Saturday's game 5-0 against the SEC West.

"It feels great to get this win," Tyus said. "I feel like we've been through this earlier this season with the quick scouting and quick turnaround, so I think we'll be focused and hopefully we can get a big win at Ole Miss."

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