Bruce Pearl gives high praise to Florida, Golden after Gators’ dominant win over Auburn

The Florida Gators improved to 16-7 (6-4 SEC) following a dominant 81-65 victory over No.12 Auburn (19-5, 8-3 SEC) inside the Stephen O’Connell Center on Saturday evening. The win marked the Gators’ 15th consecutive home win against Auburn, the last four all coming against top-25 Tigers teams.

“Congratulations to Florida. They played great, they were really well prepared, they were more physical, they didn’t turn the ball over, they took care of the ball,” Auburn’s Head Coach Bruce Pearl said on Florida postgame.

The Gators turned the ball over just seven times in the contest while forcing 15 Auburn turnovers, ten of which were steals.

The trio of Zyon Pullin, Walter Clayton, and Riley Kugel combined for 61 of Florida’s 81 points (75%). Senior guard Zyon Pullin had 19 points, six rebounds, and three assists vs Auburn, and was particularly great in the first 10 minutes of the game. Pullin has become the fifth Gator since 1996-97 to score double figures in 20 straight games, joining Anthony Roberson (29), Colin Castleton (24), Kenny Boynton (23) and Udonis Haslem (23).

“Florida’s guards are really good, like really good. Like as good as anyone’s guards,” Pearl said on the Gators’ backcourt. “I don’t know what guards are better than Pullin when he has a one-on-one matchup, you tell me who’s better than Pullin in a one-on-one matchup.”

Junior guard Walter Clayton had 20 points on just nine shot attempts, adding five free throws on five attempts.

“You tell me who’s a better scorer than Clayton,” Pearl said. “I don’t know that their going to lose those matchups very often.”

Sophomore guard Riley Kugel led the Gators in scoring with 22 points off the bench on 7-16 shooting and 3-7 from three-point range. Kugel was more aggressive today, which resulted in three trips to the free throw line where the Orlando native knocked down all five of his attempts.

“Kugel is playing better now, obviously coming off the bench, he’s going to win most of those matchups,” Pearl said on Kugel.

Todd Golden picked up his fourth top-25 win as Florida’s coach, doing so in his 56th game at the helm, the second-fastest of any coach in UF history and the fastest of any Gator coach in the past 50 years.

“You got a brilliant young coach, highest character, unbelievable family, kids are playing for him, he cares about the kids, going to do it the right way, he’s one of the best young coaches in all of college basketball and he’s here at Florida,” Pearl said on Golden.

Pearl stated that he talked to Florida officials when they were deciding on who to hire as their next basketball coach.

“I was grateful that I had a chance to actually talk to some people when they were deciding ,” Pearl said. “Who’s better? I said stop, can you tell me who’s better? Who’s got a better basketball mind, who’s got a better relationship with the kids, who’s got a better family. I didn’t have to convince anyone at Florida, I think they knew what they had,” Pearl said on who message to Florida officials.

Florida put together their strongest 40-minute performance of the season on Saturday evening, defeating No.12 Auburn by a 16-point margin to mark their 5th win in their last six games.

“What I think is a top five team in the league, been through, seen almost everybody, and Florida will finish in the top five,” Pearl said on Florida.

Florida is currently tied with Kentucky for 5th place in the SEC, holding a 6-4 conference record. The Gators will look to continue their momentum against LSU on Tuesday night inside the O’Connell Center.








Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.