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GAME RECAP: Florida 74, Auburn 57

A night without Sharife Cooper is like...

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight wasn’t all that fun, especially when the news came out prior to the game that Sharife Cooper wasn’t going to be warming up. Without the Tigers’ best player, Florida came in and had little trouble dispatching Auburn in a 74-57 victory at Auburn Arena tonight.

It’s difficult for me to say exactly what happened. Obviously tonight was a little bit of a compounding issue with the way that the Tigers were prevented from having a consistent roster throughout the season by way of suspensions, injuries, and the postseason ban. Now with just two games left, maybe one of the youngest teams in the country got a little down on itself. Maybe they realized that there wasn’t anything to play for aside from the spoiler role. Maybe without the SEC Tournament or a shot at the NCAA Tournament, the likelihood of slacking off just a bit crept into their minds. It also doesn’t help that not having one of the best home court advantages in the league spurring you on has been a byproduct of the COVID-19 regulations over the last few months.

Either way, Auburn got drilled tonight. To the Tigers’ credit, they did show heart down the stretch, not allowing Florida to stretch the lead, but never really threatening in the final ten minutes. Offensively, the Tigers may as well have put on the film from the bowl game against Northwestern as motivation, because it was dreadful without Cooper leading the way. Auburn shot just 37% on the night, and had no players crack double digits until late. They hit just 7-29 three-pointers, and got only a trickling of production from the bench. In the end, Devan Cambridge led the Tigers with 14 points, while Jaylin Williams, J.T. Thor, and Jamal Johnson all finished in double digits. Tre Mann led the way for Florida with 19 points.

It’s not likely worth outlining how this game played out, but the Tigers scored first on a Devan Cambridge three and then allowed an 18-3 run to go down 18-6 at the under-12 timeout. Scottie Lewis’ three at the five-minute mark put the Gators up 30-13, and they crusied to a halftime lead of 44-22, doubling Auburn up and completely outplaying a shorthanded Tiger team.

After the intermission, Auburn played a little tighter, but still never had enough to get close. Auburn was able to cut the lead to 15 points midway through the half, but the Gators strung together a bit of a run to reestablish a 20-plus point lead only moments later, and they held that until things were academic in the closing moments.

For Auburn, there are just two games left, both coming against some of the best teams in the SEC in Tennessee and Alabama. The Volunteers come to town on Saturday for a morning tipoff, while Auburn will finish the season in Tuscaloosa a week from tonight. After that, it’s baseball season fully.