Florida beats Auburn for 24th straight SEC win
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is starting to look much more like, well, Florida.
Dorian Finney-Smith scored 14 points, Eli Carter added 12 and the Gators beat Auburn 75-55 Thursday night, winning their 24th consecutive Southeastern Conference game.
The Gators (10-6, 3-0 SEC) never trailed in this one, building a double-digit lead early and going up by as many as 24 early in the second half.
All 10 regulars scored, with Carter getting most of his in the first 20 minutes and Finney-Smith taking over after the break. After being limited in the first half because of foul trouble, Finney-Smith scored just about every way imaginable. He had put-backs, tip-ins, made two 3-pointers and was perfect from the free-throw line.
Michael Frazier II, who came off the bench for the third consecutive game, chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds. Kasey Hill added 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
"Everyone’s contributing at a high level," Carter said. "I think we’re good right now."
The Gators certainly are deeper than they’ve been most of the season, with center Jon Horford returning from a suspension and Finney-Smith and Carter looking more comfortable the further they get away from early season injuries.
Now, the Gators are playing at a considerably higher level than they did the first two months of the season.
"It’s funny, `they’re down this year?’" Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "It’s because people here are spoiled. That’s the bottom line. … Are they not as dominant as they’ve been the last couple of years? No, they’re not as dominant. They’re not. They’re still really good, though."
Antoine Mason led Auburn (9-7, 1-2) with 13 points. Cinmeon Bowers added 11 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
Florida shot 49 percent from the floor and was 7 of 17 from beyond the arc. Equally important, the Gators had 14 assists, nine turnovers, seven steals and four blocks.
"I can’t remember the last time there was an SEC game where my teams didn’t turn people over more than nine times," Pearl said.
Mason hit consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the key, cutting Florida’s lead to 63-50 with 5:42 to play. Jordan Granger added another trey from the corner, making it a 10-point game for the first time since midway through the first half.
But the Gators held on down the stretch despite struggling from the free-throw line (12 of 18).
Florida won its eighth straight in the series and tied Kentucky for the second-longest winning streak in the SEC over the last 50 years. The Wildcats own the league’s modern-day record, having won 26 in a row during the 1995-96 seasons.
Florida’s fast start had a lot to do with its latest victory. The Gators made 10 of their first 17 shots and used a 15-0 run to take a 26-8 lead early.
Auburn misfired early and often, missing 14 of its first 17 games. The Tigers had two lengthy field-goal droughts, going seven minutes without a bucket in the first half and then 10 minutes without a basket later.
Auburn: The Tigers haven’t beaten Florida in the regular season since 1999 and haven’t won in Gainesville since 1996. … Auburn fell to 0-5 on the road this season. … Coach Bruce Pearl is now 8-6 all-time against Florida.
Florida: The sons of former Florida coach and current Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp attended the game wearing Tigers gear. … Freshmen Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson started their third consecutive game together. … Florida students had some fun with Auburn’s Malcolm Canada, chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A" every time he touched the ball.
Auburn’s leading scorer, KT Harrell, was off for the second time in as many SEC road games. He scored eight points on 3-of-13 shooting. He also had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in a loss at Vanderbilt last week. "I really can’t put my finger on it," he said. "I’ve just got to get back in the gym and get to work."
Auburn hosts South Carolina on Saturday.
Florida plays at Georgia on Saturday.