Auburn Basketball: A win against Florida will make up for the losses

Feb 11, 2017; Oxford, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Jared Harper (1) drives to the basket against Mississippi Rebels guard Breein Tyree (4) during the second half at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Mississippi defeated Auburn 90-84.  Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Here we take a look at Auburn basketball against the Florida Gators on Feb. 14, where the Tigers look to define their season.

Auburn basketball, despite recent second half collapses, is on track to its first winning season since the 2008-09 campaign. Yet at no point in this season was a 63-point second half or a 23-point lead being squandered a concept of reality for Bruce Pearl. In what Pearl has described as “the most disappointing loss of [his] career [at Auburn],” there’s some room to say that everything is going to be OK.

I’m no fan of running up the score in the first half and believing in the second half being run the same way — it doesn’t happen 100 percent of the time. These players are competitors, and no one is looking to being shut down like that.

Ronnie Johnson looked to save the game for the Tigers, but was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempts. Johnson led the way for Auburn with 18 points and eight assists, joining Anfernee McLemore off the bench who had a team-high eight rebounds. Johnson and McLemore joined Mustapha Heron, who had 12 points and six rebounds in his effort, in what should have been a 30-point victory.

Evidently the whole ego thing set in as the Tigers went on to shoot 30 3-pointers, having only made 13 in the game. There’s time for coping following this loss, but it’d be wise to understand the gravity of the situation. With No. 17 Florida coming to the Plains for a Valentine’s Day matchup, Auburn will need a complete game to drive their season into March Madness.

Forget the losses against Tennessee and Ole Miss, a win against Florida will make the pain go away.

These Gators have surged to the top spot in the SEC with a six game winning streak that is highlighted by an 88-66 win over a No. 8 Kentucky. Although they seem to be fairly dominant, they have also slowed down since then with a 12-point win over Georgia and a 9-point win over Texas A&M suggest relaxation at the hands of success.

The man to watch is Canyon Barry, son of NBA legend Rick Barry — he does those underhand free throws, too — who is second in scoring for the Gators with 12.7 points per game. His scoring is coupled with excellent defensive skills, an entire Florida squad that is capable of shutting down any offense. It’s also wise to notice that only two players on the roster are shooting below 40 percent from the field,

What’s eerie about these two teams in particular are the similarities statistically. Though Florida is averaging two more turnovers per game at 14, they both average 13 assists and eight steals. Auburn is averaging 37 rebounds while Florida averages 38. Auburn is scoring 80 points, Florida is scoring 79.

The only large difference is the defensive mindset that has existed with Florida basketball for decades, something that will tear these Tigers apart unless they’re able to mesh their abilities together. Reliability is essential, and smart basketball is a priority. A 63-point second half shouldn’t have happened from an Ole Miss team, but it can certainly happen from Florida.

As long as Auburn plays the way they did in the first half, it will be a fairly close game.

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