BY: John Mamola

A bizarre ending to a surprising effort by the Auburn Tigers (12-12, 4-9 SEC) in Gainesville as they lose a two point lead with a minute left to play to lose by five points in a 71-66 final.  An unusual sequence of events including an untimely foul and a loss of composure by Auburn led the Gators (24-2, 13-0 SEC) to capitalize as their five point victory comes on their last five shots from the free throw line.

The Gators found themselves down to Auburn by two points when Tampa’s own Micahel Frazier drained an ice cold three point shot to give the Gators a one point lead.   Frazier was 2-9 from downtown before sinking the game changing bucket.  Auburn would tie the game sinking one of two free throws following a Wil Yeguete blocking foul. 

However following the missed second free throw, Auburn chose to foul Patric Young on the rebound sending the senior center to the line.  Young drained both from the charity stripe to give the Gators a one point lead with twenty seconds to play when Auburn throw the following in bounds pass away as no player came into the backcourt to receive the pass. 

That rarity led to a Gators possession and another foul by Auburn on Scottie Wilbekin, in which the Gainesville product sank two free throws of his own giving the Gators a three point lead.  Auburn, who shot 48% for the game, couldn’t convert one field goal in the last 4:47 of the game and that’s what was the difference as the Gators move on to win their 18th game in a row this season.

The Gators were coming off their most impressive win of the season at Kentucky had a hard time adjusting to the friendly confines of the O’Dome early.  Florida shot better from behind the three point arc (43%) as opposed to the field (33%) by halftime and faced their biggest halftime deficit at the break.  It was the third straight game and the fourth time in the last five games that the Gators trailed at the half.    

Gators guard Casey Prather kept the Gators in the game with 10 of Florida’s 30 points in the first frame, countering the stellar shooting of the Tigers.  Tahj Shamsid-Deen was hot leading the Tigers with 14 at the break, and Auburn shot 56% from the field in the first half.

Things would change and change quickly in the second half as the Gators rushed out to a 11-3 run to begin the second frame.  The Gators awoke a sleepy home crowd following the break with a highlight reel back to back dunks by Patric Young and Prather.  The Gators tied the game in the first three minutes of the half, but did not grab a lead against a scrappy Auburn squad till there were ten minutes to go in the second half. 

Patric Young and Scottie Wilbekin took the Gators on their shoulders and kept the team in the game matching every basket that the hot shooting Tigers were sinking.  Young scoring all of his 17 points in the second half as Wilbekin matched with 10 of his 15 points in the final frame. 

The Florida Gators have now won 30 straight games at home, and a school record 18 straight games.  The Gators win improves their record against Auburn at the O’Dome to 9-0.

Florida will head on the road for a Saturday afternoon match up against Ole Miss (16-10, 7-6 SEC).  You can catch all the action on 1250am WHNZ with the pre-game at 11:25am, with a high noon tipoff.