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#4 Auburn at Florida Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn’s tough week continues as they roll into Gainesville.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Auburn vs Florida Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday January 18th

Opponent: Florida Gators

Location: Exactech Arena at Stephen O’Connell Center - Gainesville, FL

Time: 12:30PM

Network: CBS, Auburn Radio Network

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Auburn started the season 15-0 before an 83-64 loss to Alabama on Wednesday night. Before you hit the panic button, know this:

Auburn has still won 27 of it’s last 29 games overall and no, the sky isn’t falling, If you’ve heard Bruce talk the last few weeks, he said a loss was coming and the Tigers have been fortunate in some games this year to get the W, when they haven’t played their best. The Tigers struggled for the majority of the night Wednesday, turning the ball over 21 times, missed 13 free throws, and went just 7-28 from 3-point range. Auburn made a couple runs early in the 2nd half to cut the deficit to 1 possession at 2-3 points, but the Tigers could never get over the hump and get the lead. It’s one loss and yes it’s not who Auburn fans want to lose to, but this team will be fine. But let’s move on to today:

February 10, 1996

That was the last time Auburn won in Gainesville, a 73-70 win. For a team that has made a lot of history the last 212 years, here’s another chance to do so.

Today, Auburn will take on one of the most up and down teams in the SEC this season in Florida, a team who has not lived up to preseason expectations. Many had the Gators winning the SEC this season and in their Preseason Top 10.

Getting to Know Florida

Florida comes into today’s game 11-5, 3-1 in the SEC. They beat Ole Miss 71-55 on Tuesday to bounce back from their worst loss of the year, a 91-75 at Missouri. As a team, Florida averages 73.8 PPG and gives up just 66.4 PPG.

Graduate Student Forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. (#24) - 15 PPG, 8.4 RPG

Blackshear Jr. is a grad transfer from Virginia Tech and the only senior on the Gators roster. In 3 years in Blacksburg, he averaged 11.2 PPG and 6 RPG and was 2nd team all ACC last season. He was one of the most sought after grad transfers and his arrival was a big part of the increased expectations in Gainesville this year. Blackshear has done his part. In addition to being the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, he’s also the team’s best free throw shooter at 83.5%. At 6’10”, 240 pounds, he’ll be a force in the paint and this will be one of Austin Wiley and Anfernee McLemore’s toughest matchups in the paint.

Sophomore Forward Keyontae Johnson (#11) - 13 PPG, 6.8 RPG

In addition to Blackshear, Auburn has to deal with Johnson in the paint. Johnson had 10 and 8 rebounds in 2 games against the Tigers last season so keeping Johnson off the glass is key in this one. He’s a 35% 3-point shooter as well.

Sophomore Guard Andrew Nembhard (#2) - 11.1 PPG, 5.9 APG

Here’s something to keep in mind on Nembhard.

I would imagine even if Nembhard plays, this will have some effect on him but Coach Mike White appears to be preparing to play without his PG tomorrow which would be a big blow to Florida. Nembhard is a 34% 3-point shooter and an 80% free throw shooter.

Sophomore Guard Noah Locke (#10) - 9.9 PPG

Locke is a 40.2% 3-point shooter which leads the Gators. He averaged 9 PPG against Auburn last year and hit 2 3s in each game last year.

Freshman Guard Scottie Lewis (#23) - 8.9 PPG

In addition to the arrival of Blackshear, Florida’s freshman class was a big reason for the hype surrounding this team. Lewis leads this freshman group in scoring. In Florida’s double OT win against Alabama 2 weeks ago, he had his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Keys for Auburn

Auburn’s starting backcourt, Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick, have to play much better today in order for Auburn to win. They combined for just 11 points, 8 turnovers with both fouling out in Tuscaloosa. Doughty appeared to be battling a tweaked Achilles tendon injury which slowed him down but according to Bruce, he’s feeling better and he’ll be good to go today. The Tigers can’t afford to lose Doughty, as he’s been the primary PG when J’Von is not on the floor.

Jamal Johnson played well in Tuscaloosa the other night, knocking down a trio of 3 pointers and the Tigers need him to continue to shooting the 3 well. Jamal is 23-50 (46%) from 3-point range this season.

In the paint, Austin Wiley put up another double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday. But Wiley was just 2-6 from the field against Alabama. Wiley’s too good of a big man to get just 6 shots a game. Also Isaac Okoro had just 1 point in the 2nd half against Alabama. He played well in the 1st half but I’d like the offensive aggressiveness we saw early in 2 halves today.

Prediction

I’m probably in the minority but I wanted Auburn to win this game as much if not more than the game on Wednesday primarily because of the long losing streak Auburn has in the O Dome. They came close to ending it the last time they played in Gainesville, losing 72-66 in February 2018. Auburn beat Florida twice last year, something they hadn’t done once since 2009. I think Florida will play one of their better games of the year tomorrow, I really do. Auburn needs a big win after the tough loss on Wednesday and while this is a toss-up for me, I’m picking Auburn to win in a close one

Auburn 72 Florida 67