Florida Loses To Auburn 85-73

Florida fought hard in the second half to bring a double digit deficit down to 1 but ultimately Auburn’s talent backed by a raucous home court was too much for the Gators to hold off, ultimately losing to the Tigers by a score of 85-73. Replaying in Florida’s mind will be the start of the game where Auburn blitzed them and jumped off to a 24-11 lead, because since that point early in the game, the Gators pretty much played the Tigers to a draw. Playing on the road against a team loaded with future NBA players, that’s the kind of deficit you can’t give up so early and the Gators were never fully able to dig themselves out of that hole. After playing two of the better teams in the SEC the Gators now fall to 0-2 in league play and they don’t exactly have things get any easier, next facing a quality LSU squad. 

 

Showing Up

 

Colin Castleton was questionable to play due to a shoulder injury but you wouldn’t have known it considering how he played, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Not only was he just productive, but he was productive against one of the best frontcourts in the country featuring 7’1” Walker Kessler, 6’10” future top-4 NBA draft pick Jabari Smith, and 6’11” Dylan Cardwell. Castleton’s nice touch on the inside was on display all night and he also used repeatedly pivots to get Auburn’s defenders off balance and committing fouls, something which also had huge value to the Gators as Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler both had to go to the bench prematurely with foul trouble. Castleton has had big games in the past but it was often taking advantage of some favorable matchups with smaller players but that wasn’t at all the case against Auburn. He took on difficult matchups and was able to put points on the board, something that’s encouraging to the Gators moving forward.

 

Free Throw Troubles

 

One element of the game that kept the Gators from keeping the game closer was their free throw shooting, particularly at a couple key points where they went to the line for two clutch free throws…and missed both. They finished the game 19-28 from the line, which isn’t a terrible number at 68% but it’s well below what they’d like to see and it’s a lot of points left on the table that could have really changed the game. On a couple of occasions a pair of free throws would have erased Auburn’s lead or cut it to a single possession and really silenced the crowd–but instead it was misses that fired up the student section and amplified the noise, leading to Auburn runs. Missed free throws can be back breakers and there were definitely some chances at the line the Gators would like back, particularly Myreon Jones and Brandon McKissic who were both 0-2 at a couple big moments. 

 

Still Work To Do

 

Florida’s defense wasn’t terrible and was far from the only reason they lost, but Auburn finished the game shooting 54% from the field at 44% from three, which was at times the result of purely ridiculous shotmaking from the perimeter, but also were at times possessions where Florida had a bad closeout or missed rotation that led to a bucket. Once again there were fouled three-point shooters, and also times where lazy closeouts led to layups. Were the Gators awful defensively? No, but considering their offensive limitations, their room for error on the defensive end is just pretty thin. One success of Florida’s defense was 12 turnovers, perhaps a glimpse into a higher risk, gambling style of defense they may have to play against the SEC’s best offenses. 

 

Warrior

 

Guard Tyree Appleby has had problems with turnovers, and while that was the case again on Saturday (4) he also was an emotional leader who kept the Gators in the game with 11 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals. Sure, there are going to be times where he throws the ball to the other team, but there are also times where he creates shots out of nowhere when the Gators’ offense is stagnating and no one else can create a thought. Appleby is a player who seems to be at his best in Florida’s biggest games and that speaks to his competitiveness and fearlessness. 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Watching this game, the one thing that was apparent was that Auburn has a lot more raw talent than the Gators. Yes, Auburn is a team in National Championship conversations and the Gators, well, aren’t, but it was a look at the level the Gators will have to get to if they want to get to the top of the SEC. This was a game where Florida fought hard and were able to scratch and claw to keep the game respectful but Auburn just had so many more offensive creators, athletes, and shot makers, and that was the difference. All credit to the Gators for fighting hard, as it would have been very easy to let this one get out of hand.

 

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.