Date: Tuesday February 5th
Opponent: Florida Gators - 12-9 (4-4)
Location: Auburn Arena
Network: ESPNU, Auburn Radio Network
What an opportunity for Auburn tonight! The Tigers have not defeated Florida since the 2009 SEC Tournament, losers of 11 consecutive meetings and 21 of their last 22 against the Gators. The only other win against Florida in this millennium was in the 2000 SEC Tournament. For the last regular season win over Florida, you have to go back all the way to January 16, 1999. It’s been over 20 years folks!!
Get to Know Florida...
Expect a lot of 3-point attempts in this game from both teams. Despite Florida’s offensive challenges, the Gators are 2nd in the SEC in 3-pointers made this year at 9.2 3s per game. The Gators are 2nd behind Auburn of course, averaging 11.2 3-pointers a game. As a team, they shoot 35.2% from 3-point range. While the Gators have made several 3s a game, they average just 69 points a game this year while giving up just 62.8 points per game. While Auburn averages 84.2 points a game, the Gators have hit 80 points just 4 times this year.
Individually, we’ll start with senior guard (#5) KeVaughn Allen, leading the Gators in scoring at 13 points a game. After a 31 point performance against Texas A&M a few weeks ago on 8-10 shooting from 3, Allen has struggled behind the arc in his last 3 ballgames.
Next is freshmen guard (#10) Noah Locke averaging 11.4 points a game. Locke is a 42.1% 3-point shooter overall. Locke went 7-13 from 3 against the Aggies and then 6-11 in last week’s Overtime win over Ole Miss. Kentucky held to just 2 3-pointers on Saturday as Locke scored just 6 in their loss to the Wildcats.
Next in scoring is the freshmen point guard (#2) Andrew Nembhard, a highly touted recruit out of Canada. He is averaging 7.5 points and 5.8 assists a game but has scored 12 in each of his last 2 games.
Senior center (#13) Kevarrius Hayes mans the middle for Florida averaging 6.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a game. His block numbers put him 3rd currently in the SEC.
Freshmen forward (#11) Keyontae Johnson averages 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds a contest. The forwards minutes have gone up in recent games as the Gators lost forward Keith Stone to a torn ACL 5 games ago.
Finally, I want to mention senior guard (#3) Jalen Hudson. One of the biggest mysteries on this team is how Hudson has struggled this season. He’s averaging only 6.4 points a game after averaging 15.5 points a game in his junior year. A 40% 3-point shooter last season is just shooting 25% from 3-point range this year.
What to Look for from Auburn...
Bruce Pearl mentioned on Monday that Austin Wiley may play some in this game. Wiley has missed Auburn’s last 5 games with a foot injury but it sounds like he’s practicing again and poised to return soon. Wiley’s addition would give Auburn a 10 man rotation once again giving Pearl plenty options of rotations of players.
Chuma Okeke looked great against Missouri with 14 points and 12 rebounds and scored 9 points (all in the first half) against Alabama. I look for Okeke to be aggressive in this one and have a great game.
Bryce Brown scored 23 points in his final home against Alabama and continues to shoot well from 3 at Auburn Arena. But I think Bryce is at his best when he’s taking the ball inside and of his 12 shots Saturday, just 7 were from 3-point range. Brown getting into the paint also forces defenses to collapse on him leaving the potential for him to pass it to open 3-point shooters. Right now, Auburn’s back to playing fast and the Tigers have flourished in this up-tempo offense.
The guard play of Harper, Brown, and Doughty are going to be fascinating to watch against Nembhard, Allen, Locke and Hudson. As I said in the beginning, it’s been 10 years since Auburn has beaten Florida overall and 20 years since Auburn beat Florida in the regular season. If Auburn can play up-tempo as they did in the second half against Mizzou and against Alabama, then tonight’s the night that streak ends. Auburn broke a lot of losing streaks last year but the one with the Gators remained. It ends tonight.
Auburn 79 Florida 67