Saturday February 19th, 2022
Auburn Tigers at Florida Gators
Exactech Arena - Gainesville, Florida
Time: 1:00PM CT
Network: ESPN, Auburn Radio Network
On January 10th, 1996, Auburn defeated Florida in Gainesville 73-70. It’s the last time Auburn has won in Gainesville. In addition, Auburn hasn’t swept Florida in the regular season since the 1987-1988 season. We hear the phrase “Make History” a lot and the Tigers have a golden opportunity do so today in the Swamp.
Today, Auburn (24-2, 12-1) has a chance to make some history as they head to Gainesville to take on the Gators (16-10, 6-7) and a win today would not break some long streaks, but would also help Auburn inch closer to a SEC Regular Season title. Auburn leads the SEC by 2 games over Kentucky and Tennessee with both of those schools still having to go to Bud Walton Arena.
Auburn comes into tonight’s game fresh off of a 94-80 over Vanderbilt. After spotting Vanderbilt the first 11 points of the game, Jabari Smith made it known that enough was enough and had a night that Auburn fans have been waiting to see for awhile.
Smith had a career-high 31 points knocking down 7 of his 10 3-point attempts. With Auburn coming into Wednesday’s game struggling from 3, he was a big part of Auburn breaking out of their shooting slump.
Jabari Smith showed his versatility as a shooter + scorer at 6-10 by knocking down 7/10 3s for a career-high 31 PTS as Auburn beat Vanderbilt 94-80. Smith is averaging 2.2 3s at a 42.2% rate thru 26 games for the 24-2 Tigers. The projected top-3 pick is still 18-years-old pic.twitter.com/lJYSO54aud— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) February 17, 2022
Not to be outdone was Walker Kessler who also had a career-high in points Wednesday night (22) and when Smith was on the bench getting his customary 2nd half break, Kessler took the game over as Auburn stretched the lead to double digits and never allowed Vandy to threaten again. Kessler is 3 blocks away from tying the Auburn single-season record with blocks, held by Kyle Davis.
We talked about Auburn’s struggles shooting prior to the game Wednesday but thanks in large part to Smith, Auburn shot 50% from 3 on Wednesday, 11-22. The 11 3s made were the most Auburn has made in SEC play this season and most they had made in a game since making 14 3s in their win over Nebraska in Atlanta back in December. Auburn was also 21-26 from the free throw line, a place the Tigers had struggled the past few games. This will be Auburn’s first road game since going 8-17 from the free throw line in their loss at Arkansas.
Auburn defeated Florida 85-73 in the team’s first matchup of the season back on January 8th. It was billed as a prime matchup between big men between Walker Kessler and Colin Castleton but Kessler dealt with foul trouble for much of the game and fouled out of that game with 6 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes. Colin Castleton had 22 points and 10 rebounds and drew 9 fouls in that game.
Auburn was led that night by KD Johnson who had 23 points to lead all scorers. Jaylin Williams had a season high 14 points off the bench which was critical with both Kessler and Smith dealing with foul trouble. Smith only played about 20 minutes because of the foul trouble and he had 13 points with Wendell Green also scoring 13 off the bench.
Florida desperately needs this game to improve their NCAA Tournament hopes. They come into tonight’s game off a damaging loss to Texas A&M 56-55 and lost 78-57 to Kentucky in Lexington a week ago today. As so many teams have done against Auburn this season, I would expect the Gators to play well today.
We talked earlier about Auburn seemingly shoot out of their slump Wednesday but can they take that hot shooting out on the road? That and Auburn’s bigs avoiding foul trouble will be the two biggest keys for me today. If Auburn can get big games from Smith and Kessler, the Tigers should win this game. If they are in foul trouble, it certainly plays into Florida’s hands.
I haven’t felt great about this game since the schedule was released knowing the previous history but this team is different and they have something to prove after losing the last time they went onto the road. I think this will be a close game but I feel like today’s the day Bruce Pearl and company get it done in Gainesville.