Canyon Barry emerges as integral part of Florida’s success

Canyon Barry, averaging 22 minutes a game off the bench this season, is second on the team with 12.7 points per game.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Canyon Barry transferred to Florida expecting to be a piece of the puzzle to help the Gators return to the NCAA Tournament stage.

Instead, he has become Florida’s most important player.

The senior backup guard looks to produce another solid outing as well as extend his school-record consecutive free-throw streak when the No. 15 Gators visit Auburn in SEC play on Tuesday.

Barry played his first three seasons at College of Charleston before making the move south. He is the Gators’ leading scorer in conference play at 13.6 points per game — his season average is 12.7 — and regularly sparks the team when he enters the game.

He also established the consecutive free-throw mark of 39 — Taurean Green (37 in 2005-06) held the mark previously — while shooting them all underhanded. Just like the way his famous father, Rick Barry, did during his Hall of Fame career.

Canyon Barry hasn’t missed a free throw since Jan. 7 but he does identify some disappointment in that his season percentage is at 89.7.

“Trying to keep it rolling, trying to get to 90 percent,” Barry said after Saturday’s 71-62 victory over Texas A&M. “I think I’m close now hopefully, but just step to the line, have confidence every time. It doesn’t really mean much. I just care about winning, getting these guys ready for the next game.”

Barry, who is studying nuclear engineering, attempts to help Florida improve its winning streak to seven games when it faces the Tigers (16-9, 5-7). Gators coach Mike White has been impressed over and over by Barry’s intelligence, maturity and shot-making ability.

“He’s not only a nuclear engineer, but he’s a really, really quick thinker,” White said. “He sees stuff really quick on the floor.

“This whole year that I’ve had him, he’s been a really confident guy. He doesn’t ride the roller coasters like a lot of other scorers.”

Auburn has dropped nine straight and 19 of its past 20 meetings against Florida. That dubious streak includes eight consecutive home losses versus the Gators.

The Tigers are fresh off a disappointing 90-84 road loss against Mississippi. Auburn held a 23-point second-half lead but collapsed and gave up 63 second-half points in the disheartening setback.

“This is the most disappointing loss of my 2 1/2 years at Auburn,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said afterward. “Sixty-three points in the second half.”

Freshman guard Mustapha Heron paces Auburn with team-best averages of 15.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Heron has scored in double digits in all 25 games.

Freshman guard Jared Harper (12.3) and freshman forward Danjel Purifoy (11.5) also are averaging in double digits.

The defensive performance has been shaky as the Tigers allowed 90 or more points in three of the past six games. Auburn is surrendering an average of 87.3 points during the stretch and 78.2 for the season.

Florida allows 65.2 points per game and has won by an average of 24.8 points during its six-game winning streak.

Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen averages a team-best 13.1 points but has failed to reach double digits in six of the last 10 games.