Jan. 27, 2007
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -The Florida Gators are fast learners.
After struggling against one smaller team, the top-ranked Gators found just the right mix of outside shots and pounding it inside during Saturday's stress-free 91-66 victory over Auburn.
Florida (19-2, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) shot 58 percent from the floor, went 9-of-14 on 3-pointers and nursed a big lead through most of the game against the smaller Tigers.
The Gators' 12th consecutive win was a breeze compared to Wednesday night's 70-67 win over Mississippi State when they trailed at halftime.
"I didn't think that we played with a great level of basketball intelligence against Mississippi State in the first half," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "We got caught up taking too many perimeter shots. I think our guys learned a valuable lesson."
The Tigers (13-9, 3-4) paid the price for that lesson.
Balance certainly wasn't an issue for Florida. Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey and Al Horford scored 17 points apiece and the Gators had few problems hitting 3s or scoring inside against the Tigers, who were unable to counter the nation's top shooting team.
Horford made all six of his field-goal attempts and was 5-of-6 on free throws. Humphrey was 6-for-7 shooting and made all four 3-point attempts.
The Tigers were coming off a 24-point rout of No. 12 Alabama but were helpless against the Gators.
"They were too good," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "They could beat a lot of people the way they shot today. They're as good of a basketball team as I've seen in a while. They just shot it too well today for us and they pounded it in there against us.
"We didn't have any answers and we fouled too much."
Joakim Noah had eight points, seven rebounds and four assists for Florida, but his double-figure scoring streak ended at seven games.
Corey Brewer was one of the few Gators who didn't shoot well, going 4-of-14 for 11 points. Florida hit 24 of 35 free throws and committed only eight turnovers for its eighth consecutive win over the Tigers.
Defensively, the Gators focused on stopping Auburn's outside shooters, and the Tigers were just 1-of-13 on 3-pointers.
"I can't sit there and say it was all our defense, but we gave up hard drives to the basket," said Donovan, who coached his 400th game. "Our guys around the basket were able to alter some shots. We were prepared to live with two-point shots rather than 3-pointers."
"They've got the whole package," said Prowell, Auburn's tallest player at 6-foot-8. "Even if you are able to get in front of them, they are long and tall enough to get it over us. They have some big players that can really play in the post. They showed it today."
The Tigers had won two consecutive games against ranked teams for the first time in 12 seasons but couldn't keep up with the Gators.
Florida built 15-point leads six times over the final 8:11 of the first half, including a 51-36 halftime advantage.
Auburn hit the first shot of the second half to cut it to 13, but the Gators went inside to Horford for the game's next five points. Humphrey's second 3-pointer of the half pushed it to 64-44 with just under 15 minutes left.
Auburn never cut it below 20 points after that.
The Gators enjoyed the dominant win after the closest call during their winning streak.
"Anytime you have a game like that, it's nice to win the next game big," Humphrey said.
There was no early letdown this time. The Gators shot 59 percent in the first half, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. The Tigers, meanwhile, missed all six of their 3-point attempts and had starters Frank Tolbert and Dollard pick up three fouls by halftime.
While Florida was draining 3s, Auburn didn't hit one until Prowell's shot with 13:35 left in the game and the Tigers down by 22.
The crowd of 11,700 was the biggest at Beard-Eaves Coliseum since the 1994 Kentucky game. It wasn't nearly enough for the Tigers.
"Florida is one of the best teams I've seen in five years," Lebo said. "They have championship experience, they can win on the road. They have answers at every spot.
"They take everybody's best shot in tough environments and they still win."