Finally holding on to a double-digit lead in the second half the Florida Gators withstood the best punches the Auburn Tigers had and came away with an important 72-66 win. If you want to beat good teams you need your best players to be your best players and Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, and Egor Koulechov all played excellent basketball leading to the victory. Chiozza (8 points, 12 assists) was dishing the ball immaculately, Allen was hitting big time threes, Hudson was creating offense when needed and Koulechov was hustling for loose balls and it all amounted to another marquee win for the Gators. The illusive 3-ball was good to the Gators tonight as they went 13-27 (48%) from behind the arc and it ultimately was enough to power them through to the win. This game was big for the Gators in the SEC standings as well as for the NCAA Tournament recipe and hopefully they can build off this as they finish the season.
A late arrival to last night’s team meeting and film study lead to Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone, and KeVaughn Allen to start the game from the bench while Michael Okauru, Dontay Bassett, and Jalen Hudson got the nod to go out for the tip. For Okauru and Bassett it was their first career starts and they both performed well as the Gators jumped out to a 15-6 lead. It was at that point that the regular starters entered the game and actually allowed Auburn to get the game back to a tied state in a matter of minutes. Florida’s bench hasn’t always been great this season so it was good to see some younger players step up to the plate when the team needed them tonight.
Bassett’s Career Night
In addition to getting the start Bassett put up a career high in points with 12, most of them coming off the hustle he showed on the glass with 5 offensive rebounds. His 23 minutes also showed that he has started to really earn the trust of the coaching staff and I’m sure he’ll be a regular part of the rotation moving forward.
Free Throw Woes
Though many things went right for the Gators tonight their struggles at the free throw line almost cost them the game. Going 7-16 from the charity stripe (43.8%) the Gators let Auburn stay in a game where they could have had some breathing room. The struggles from the line have been compiling these last few games but hopefully a big time win gets their confidence up.
Highlight of the Night
With less than three seconds left in the first half and the Gators inbounding the ball underneath their own hoop you didn’t think there would be anything there for them but KeVaughn Allen had other ideas. Catching the inbounds pass while curling at full speed he took a couple of bounces before putting up a ¾ court heave. Time seemed to stand still as the ball floated closer and closer towards the hoop and then, money. The 70-foot shot wasn’t only a spectacular visual but it was 3 huge points and it pushed the halftime lead for the Gators to 33-24, a sizeable margin against the #12 team in the country.
Lowlight of the Night
The refs calling Kevarrius Hayes out of bounds after he corralled a Chris Chiozza missed free throw in a two-point game with under a minute left. Going towards the baseline to save the ball, Hayes was comfortably inbounds but despite the ref being in perfect position to see the play he inexplicably called Hayes out and gave the ball to Auburn.
What’s Up Next
The Gators continue their difficult stretch of games when they head to Tuscaloosa to take on Collin Sexton and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Avery Johnson’s team handed the Gators one of their most embarrassing losses of the season on February 3rd when Florida fell 68-50 in Gainesville so you can bet that Mike White and company will be looking for some revenge.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.