Ben Bornstein, ESPN Radio
The Florida Gators managed to overcome a turbulent first half to beat the Auburn Tigers with a score of 63-47. It was a tale of two halves for the Gators, as they couldn’t seem to hang onto the ball to start the game, but managed to overcome their butter finger problem in the second half.
The Gators shot the ball at a stunning rate of 53.5% for the game and shot 52.4% from beyond the arc. Kenny Boynton couldn’t seem to miss and finished with a game-high 20 points. He hit six out of his nine long balls and seven of eleven total from the field. Erving Walker had a bit of a quiet night, only scoring 13 points, but he did end up with seven rebounds, five assists, and a steal. He also played the role of ball-hawk as he kept his Auburn counterpart, Josh Wallace, to only one point for the entire night.
The entire Florida defense picked up their effort after giving up 30 points in the first half and getting a stern message from Coach Billy Donovan in the locker room. Beal on the tirade, “Yeah, there are some things he (Coach Donovan) said that I can’t repeat to you guys but he was not happy with us at halftime.”
The Gators put forth a lame effort in the first half, which was the reason for being down 30-27 going into the locker room. Whatever Donovan said to his players worked, because they came out firing on all cylinders. Not only were they hitting shots, they were diving on the floor, taking charges, and playing solid defense. The defense was so good that there was a five-minute scoring drought for the Tigers. This allowed the Gators to gain the lead and extend it, getting it to 20 at one point.
Donovan and Florida were dealing with a couple of injuries -- Cody Larson having a bursitis of the knee, Patric Young dealing with a tender ankle, and Mike Rosario fighting through a hip pointer. The biggest buzz kill of the night was watching Will Yeguete walk off the floor and immediately take his shoe off. Donovan said it may be a broken foot, but they are waiting on the results of MRIs and X-Rays before announcing anything. He was at the hospital before the game ended and it has been confirmed he will be out with a broken foot for the rest of the year. Unlike the Tennessee game, the Gators were able to play through the loss of Yeguete and play the type of defense they wanted.
Casey Prather saw time tonight with the Gators having to deal with a short bench. He was able to contribute in good minutes as he scored a lay-up and recorded two rebounds. Near the end of the game, Donovan called a timeout to get Larson, Walter Pitchford, Wilbekin, and Jacob Kurtz in the game. Kurtz is a walk-on who was previously a manager for the team and heard chants from the Rowdy Reptiles as he stepped on the court.
Erik Murphy had an efficient game as he shot 50% from the field (3-6), had seven points, and grabbed five boards. Patric Young did not have one of his better nights as he went one of three from the free throw line and only one of two from the field for a total of three points. He only had four rebounds and played about 27 minutes. He couldn’t seem to get a rhythm in the paint and the guards had to stop passing it in there because they force-fed it to Young in the first half. Needless to say, Young didn’t see many more touches, and when he did, Rob Chubb fouled him before he could even catch the ball. With the way Boynton was shooting it didn’t really matter but that may become an area of concern for the Gators.
Even though the big men did not rebound particularly well tonight, the Gators found a way to out-board Auburn 39-24. That’s three more rebounds than the Gator’s average and eleven below what the Tigers usually get. That defensive tenacity is exactly what the Gators needed to propel them to a victory tonight. As many coaches will say, a good defense leads to a good offense and that’s how the game played out for the Gators tonight.
The Gators (22-6, 10-3 SEC) visit Georgia (12-14, 3-9 SEC) on Saturday and play at 4:00 p.m. The Gators must stay mentally prepared for this game because it’s a rivalry game and the records won’t matter when the Gators step into Athens. The Bulldogs are gunning for the Gators and they won’t let their record stand in the way of that.
Ben Bornstein is a second year Telecommunications major at the University of Florida and interns at ESPN Radio. He covers the SEC basketball beat. You can follow him on twitter at @BOOMSTEIN33. E-mail Ben at