Auburn fades late, falls 63-47 at No. 12 Florida

Auburn had everything going its way for the first half, even

into the second.

Then the Tigers went cold, way cold. And No. 12 Florida got hot,

really hot.

The Gators used a 26-4 run in the second half to turn a

one-point deficit into an insurmountable lead and handled Auburn

63-47 on Tuesday night.

The Tigers (14-13, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) clearly carried

over some of the momentum gained from beat Mississippi State three

days earlier. But they couldn’t sustain it.

”We knew they were going to make a run,” Auburn coach Tony

Barbee said. ”We just didn’t have the firepower to counter-punch

it.”

Adrian Forbes led the Tigers with 11 points, the team’s only

player in double figures. Leading scorer Frankie Sullivan finished

with six points on 2-of-10 shooting.

Kenny Gabriel fell hard to the court twice and played just 20

minutes.

”Kenny’s one of our better players,” said guard Varez Ward,

who finished with six points. ”When you lose one of those,

somebody else has to step up. I didn’t step up tonight and neither

did some other guys. It was unfortunate.”

Barbee’s biggest concern was his team shooting 30.4 percent in

the second half, including 1-of-7 from behind the arc. ”You’re not

going to beat an explosive team like Florida when you’re not

knocking down shots,” Barbee said.

Gabriel bruised his lower back, Barbee said, and is questionable

for Saturday’s game against Arkansas. Chris Denson was helped to

the locker room with a knee injury at halftime.

Denson tweaked his right knee on a driving layup just before

halftime. His basket put the Tigers ahead 30-27 and gave Florida

coach Billy Donovan extra reason to rip into his players.

The Gators (22-6, 10-3) needed it, too. They had 12 turnovers in

the first half and gave up eight offensive rebounds, an

error-filled start that had Donovan seething and the Tigers

leading.

Donovan responded with the strongest message guard Erving Walker

has heard in his four years in Gainesville.

”You guys (stink),” Walker said. ”Just everything. Just one

of those halftime speeches that we know is just to motivate us and

I think we deserved it.”

Was it G-rated?

”No kids allowed,” Walker added.

Florida eventually turned things around, getting a big boost

from the 3-point line.

The Gators shot 53.5 percent from the field, including 11-of-21

from behind the arc.

Bradley Beal and Walker were huge in the 26-4 spurt. They

finished with 13 points apiece. Walker added seven rebounds and

five assists.

”Coach really gave it to us and we knew we had to step up our

play or it would be real bad,” Walker said. ”The game wasn’t

going our way how we need it, so we know we had to pick it

up.”

Boynton and Beal capped the big run with consecutive 3s that

sent many of the home fans home.

Florida’s biggest concern after that was forward Will Yeguete’s

health.

Yeguete, one of the team’s best rebounders and the heart and

soul of Donovan’s full-court press, broke his left foot midway

through the second half against Auburn and is sidelined

indefinitely.

X-rays confirmed the severity of the injury.

”We’ve got some health issues and we need to get back healthier

than we are right now,” Donovan said.

It might not happen. Donovan said the injury likely would

sideline Yeguete for the season. And that would be a huge blow

since Yeguete is arguably Florida’s most versatile player.

”There’s going to be some things that we’re going to need to

practice if it is broken and he is done,” Donovan said. ”Now,

it’s not how do you get by for a week or a couple games. Now it’s

like, `OK, we’re dealing with this for the rest of the

season.”’