Gators use big 2nd half to blow past Auburn
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida forward Will Yeguete limped across the floor, and then motioned to the bench.
He was done — for the game and maybe for the year.
No. 12 Florida used a hot-shooting night and a huge, second-half run to overcome 18 turnovers and beat Auburn 63-47 Tuesday night. But the victory may have been costly for the Gators (22-6, 10-3 Southeastern Conference).
Yeguete, one of the team’s best rebounders and the heart and soul of coach Billy Donovan’s full-court press, may have broken his left foot midway through the second half against Auburn (14-13, 4-9).
Yeguete was getting X-rays after the game.
“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 a broken foot 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.'”
With or without Yeguete, the Gators can only hope to continue shooting like they did against Auburn.
Kenny Boynton scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
Florida shot 53.5 percent from the field, including 11 of 21 from 3-point range.
The Gators 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 ripped into his team at halftime, sending 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 responded and used a 26-4 run to turn a one-point deficit into a double-digit lead. Bradley Beal and Walker were huge in the 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 Yeguete’s health.
Adrian Forbes led Auburn with 11 points. He was 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. 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 surely gave Donovan more ammunition to rip into his players.
Coming off its best game of the season — a 30-point win at Arkansas — Florida nothing like the same team three nights later. Then Beal and Boynton hit back-to-back 3s that started the turnaround.
Beal added a driving layup and a putback. Walker went coast to coast and got through three defenders for a basket. Even seldom-used guard Scottie Wilbekin got in on the scoring, with a 3.
Auburn had no answers.
Coach Tony 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.
“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.”