Feb. 18, 2014
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. --
Chris Denson and Auburn look to surprise Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday (USA Today photo)
Auburn threw a scare into Florida the first time they played, and now guard Chris Denson hopes his new-and-improved Tigers' basketball team will be able to finish the job in a rematch Wednesday night in Gainesville.
Auburn trailed the now-No. 2 team in the nation by a point with less than two minutes to play before losing 68-61 on Jan. 17.
"We didn't know how to finish games well with a young group," Denson said. "As the year kept going, we got past the 0-6 start and we did a better job of finishing."
Auburn has indeed rebounded in SEC play by winning four of its last six games. The task in the 6 p.m. Central game may be the toughest yet, considering:
Florida has won 29 straight games in the O'Connell Center.
The Gators are ranked No. 2 in the country and have the third-longest winning streak in school history at 17.
Florida is 12-0 in the SEC, the best start in school history.
Florida is 23-2 this season.
When all the adding is done, Auburn is 12-11 overall and 4-8 in the SEC, but remembers it pushed Florida hard in Auburn Arena.
"They and Kentucky are probably the gold standard in the league and if we aspire to be what they are, then you have to be able to beat them," said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. "That's easier said than done because they're a championship-tested team. They do all the little things that lead to winning."
Denson, the SEC scoring leader and the hottest player around these parts, did what he usually does, blasting through the 20-point plateau. He scored 21 that night, and has scored at least 20 points 15 times. But Denson said he remembers Florida because "the first time we played them it was very hard for me to score because they lock in defensively. That's how they win all their games. This is a big challenge for me."
But like Denson, Barbee says Auburn has found a way to win as the schedule has evened out.
"I think we have gotten better," Barbee said. "We played well in the Florida game here, but we definitely have gotten better from that game. Individuals have gotten better and collectively we have gotten better as a team, too.
"I think we have confidence knowing that we can compete against them, but knowing that you can compete against them and knowing that you can beat them are two totally different things. Especially beating them on their home court where it's one of the hardest places to play in the country."\
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: