Auburn Basketball Defeats Florida to Advance To SEC Tournament Semifinals

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM
AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

AUBURNTIGERSDOTCOM

March 13, 2009

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TAMPA, Fla.---Korvotney Barber had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Frankie Sullivan added 12 points off the bench to lead Auburn to a 61-58 victory over Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals Friday in the St. Pete Times Forum. It was the Tigers' ninth win in its last 10 games.

After Sullivan split a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left to give Auburn a 3-point lead, Quantez Robertson blocked a game-tying Erving Walker 3-pointer with five seconds to play to save the win for the Tigers (22-10).

"I saw a couple of their 3-point shooters on one side," said Robertson. "They set a quick ball screen. I was able to get back on the shooter, and I was able to get a hand on the ball."

Barber had a huge dunk on an assist from DeWayne Reed with 28 seconds to play to put Auburn up 60-55. Walter Hodge answered for the Gators (23-10) with a 3-pointer right in front of their bench to draw them to within 60-58 with 16 seconds remaining.

Auburn trailed the whole game until Lucas Hargrove split a pair of foul shots to tie it at 39 with 11:26 to go. Tay Waller then swished a 3-pointer to give the Tigers their first lead of the game at 44-43 with 8:14 on the clock.

Walker quickly put the Gators back in front with a 3-pointer on the their next possession, but Waller drained a second consecutive 3-pointer eight seconds later to give Auburn the lead for good at 47-46 with 7:30 remaining.

"I'm just really, really happy for these kids who have been through a lot and have had an unbelievable last month and a half," Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo said. "We were very, very strong defensively and that was a key to our win."

Auburn pushed its lead to 51-46 to cap an 18-8 run with 6:21 to go and led again 53-48 and 58-53 with 1:51 left.

Florida started the game on fire as it made four of its first five 3-point attempts and five of its first seven as Auburn was held scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. The Gators scored the first five points and led by as much as 11-4 on a Dan Werner trey. The Gators' first four field goals were 3-pointers as they built a 14-8 lead almost eight minutes in.

Despite the Gators' hot shooting, the Tigers kept hanging around and clawing back as they closed to within 16-15 with 10:44 before the half. Florida then went on a 7-0 run for its largest lead of the game at 23-15 and then was up 25-17 on an Alex Tyus dunk with 7:22 to go before halftime.

Auburn clawed back again as it drew to within 27-26 on a 9-2 run and a Sullivan offensive putback brought the Tigers to within 29-28 with 35 seconds to go and that is how the half ended.

Florida scored the first six points of the second half to go up 35-28, but that is when the Tigers kicked it into another gear.

Auburn, which held SEC Champion LSU to a season-low 53 points in the regular season finale, held Florida to only 58 points. The Tigers' defense held the Gators' Nick Calathes, who came in averaging 17.5 points, to only seven points, the second fewest of the season for him. Tyus led Florida with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Balanced scoring was again in order for Auburn as Barber and Sullivan both had 12 points while Waller and Lucas Hargrove both had 11 points and five rebounds.

After starting 5-of-7 from 3-point range, Florida only went 3-of-18 from behind the arc the rest of the way. Auburn's win broke a 10-game losing streak to the Gators and put the Tigers in the SEC Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2003.

Auburn plays Tennessee (20-11), an 86-62 winner over Alabama in the quarterfinals, Saturday at 2:15 pm Central in the SEC Tournament semifinals. The game will be televised on Raycom Sports in the Southeast and will be seen on ESPN throughout the rest of the nation.