Tigers Push Gators to the Limit
Jan. 20, 2011
AUBURN - Erving Walker was the only Florida player to score in double figures with 12 points to lead the Gators by Auburn 45-40 in Auburn Arena on Thursday. Kenny Gabriel had 12 points and Earnest Ross 11 for the Tigers.
With Auburn (7-11, 0-4) holding a 40-37 lead with 1:52 remaining, Kenny Boynton and Walker made back-to-back 3-pointers to put Florida ahead 43-40 with 1:14 remaining. The Tigers had one last chance to tie it, but Ross missed a contested 3-pointer from the corner with 11 seconds to go.
"We can't let a team shoot 60 percent on us like we have been doing in our first three games," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "So our last three days in practice, I don't think we did anything offensively, and it probably shows. I was proud of the way the guys fought. We played how we are supposed to play to survive because of our limited offensive team.
"We have to guard our tails off, and we did that tonight. I have never been a part of letting a team shoot 28 percent and lose. We had our opportunities. We just have to be more confident on the offensive end of the floor. We had our opportunities. We just have to be more confident on the offensive end of the floor. We have to continue to play tough, nasty, hard-nosed defense. I was proud of the guys for doing that, but you can't give up opportunities to a team like Florida."
Auburn's defense held Florida (14-4, 3-1) to the fewest points scored in Gator head coach Billy Donovan's 15 years at the school. It was the fewest points in a league the Tigers have allowed since a 52-37 victory at Arkansas on Jan. 11, 2003, and it was the fewest points Auburn has scored since a 38-36 overtime victory over Mississippi State in the 1982 SEC Tournament.
"I loved that defense today," said Gabriel. "We gave up a couple more offensive rebounds than we would have liked, but when it was all said and done, we did great on defense. I would give us an A. We fought. We were out there like junkyard dogs, and that's the type of team that we need to be from the beginning of the game. We showed that today."
Auburn, which had been down by at 20 plus points in the first half of each of its previous three SEC games, held its largest lead of the game at 18-11 on a Ross 3-pointer with 9:33 left in the opening period. Ross nailed the third of his three treys to give the Tigers a 24-18 lead with 6:51 remaining in the half.
The Tigers went scoreless for the rest of the half but still maintained a 24-23 edge at intermission.
The game remained close for the remainder of the contest with Auburn leading for most of the way and never trailing by more than one point until the final 74 seconds. Ty Armstrong, who had two points and three rebounds in eight minutes playing his first game of the season since having successful surgery on his left knee in mid-August, had an offensive put-back to give the Tigers their largest lead of the second half at 34-30 with 9:39 left.
The Gators were 2-of-22 from 3-point range before catching fire and making their final three attempts from behind the arc. Auburn held Florida to only 28.3 percent shooting from the field and 19.2 percent from 3-point range. The Tigers shot 37.5 percent from the floor, were 3-of-11 (.273) from 3-point range and a woeful 1-of-8 (.125) from the free throw line.
"We are limited offensively," said Barbee. "It's not an excuse. I have been saying it all year. We got great looks in the post and driving it to the basket. We got great looks from the three. You would consider any look from the free throw line a great look, but we went 1-of-8.
"We are what we are. I'm not happy because I will never be happy with a loss, but I'm more pleased that tonight they grasped that if you will play tough, scrappy, nasty and mean, you will give yourself a chance every night."
Auburn continues its three-game in six-day stretch as it plays host to Alabama on Saturday at 5 pm Central in sold out Auburn Arena on CSS. The Tigers close it out at Arkansas on Tuesday at 8 pm Central on ESPNU.
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