In a grinding effort typical of this team. the #2 Florida Gators used a dominant second half by Patric Young and some opportunistic play in the last minute to escape the Auburn Tigers in the O’Dome tonight. The victory was the Gators 18th consecutive victory and 30th straight at home both school records.
It was a gutsy game for the Tigers (12-12, 4-9 in the SEC) who came in as the worst three point shooting team in the conference but almost shot the O’Dome lights out from behind the arc. The Tigers shot 6-9 from three in the first half to stun the Gators home crowd and take a 38-30 halftime lead, the largest halftime deficit of the season for the Gators. Tiger freshman Tahj Shamshid-Deen led the way for Auburn finishing with 17 points on 5-8 shooting from behind the arc.
The Gators, conversely, didn’t shoot so well in the first half riding Casey Prather’s 10 points and DeVon Walker’s two three pointers off the bench to stay within range of the Tigers. The second half, however, belonged to Patric Young. After being shut out in the first half, Young came out fired up in the second half hitting big shots, grabbing rebounds, and even hustling in transition to block an Auburn lay up which exemplified his strong effort. Young finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds all but one rebound in the second half. He also had three assists and two blocks.
Casey Prather had a monster game as well finishing with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Both Young and Prather had back to back alley oops in one stretch of the second half which fired up the home crowd. Scottie Wilbekin was the only other Gator in double figures finishing with 15 points, 4 asssists and only one turnover.
The Gators struggled shooting from the field for much of the game but finished 20-50 (40%) and only 8-24 (33.3%) from three while Auburn shot 22-46 (47.8%) from the floor and 10-19 (52.6%) from three. It was, however, Michael Frazier’s (3-9, 33.3%, 9 points) third three point shot of the game with 42 seconds remaining that gave the Gators the lead at 66-65 that changed the momentum and threatened to blow the roof off the O’Dome. The Gators used great defense and solid free throw shooting down the stretch for the final margin.
With the victory the Gators moved to 24-2 tying the school record for best record to start the season (2006-07) and could possibly get them to a number one ranking after #1 Syracuse lost tonight to Boston College their first loss of the season. Of course, they have to take care of business on Saturday when they go on the road to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.