In their postgame interviews, Devin Robinson and Justin Leon told reporters that they had to “win it for John.” The reference was to center John Egbunu, who’d left the game against Auburn with a knee injury a few minutes before halftime.
As for the competition, that lasted about a half, too.
Florida took advantage of 30 points from Canyon Barry, six other players scoring in double figures and a blazing 56% shooting night from the floor to roll past Auburn, 114-95. Those 114 points fall one shy of the Gators’ school record of 115 points on the road, set 30 years ago on the Hawaiian Islands against the Rainbow Warriors. It also sets the school record for most points against an SEC opponent.
Auburn took command early, dominating the boards and getting hot from three point land, and led for most of the first half. Florida buckled down defensively near the end of the half, and tied it up with an alley-oop from Kasey Hill to Devin Robinson with less than a minute left.
Things seemingly took a turn for the worse when Egbunu went down in the middle of the first half. The Gators were forced to use Kevarrius Hayes down low, and Auburn, who was already outrebounding Florida, continued to do so at an even greater rate. It was only because Auburn went cold near the end of the first half, and because the Gators finally figured things out defensively and started forcing more tough shots, that the Tigers were held to half a hundred at the break.
Then the Gators adjusted.
Florida began crashing the boards, recovering Auburn misses, running up the floor and scoring before the Tigers could set up their defense. They also got hot themselves from outside, which, along with some better ball movement, proved to be fatal. Auburn eventually got their offense going again, but they just couldn’t stop Florida’s.
Within the first few minutes of the second half, it was clear that the Gators would win. An 11-0 rip to begin the second half pretty much put the game away. The only remaining question left was who would land the coup de grace. In this case, it was Canyon Barry who did the honors with a three off a steal from Chris Chiozza. That three ball made the score 92-73 with eight minutes to go. Yes, the lead ballooned that quickly.
Now, Florida has a lot of numbers they can be proud of. They’ve won 20 of the last 21 against Auburn, including ten straight and nine straight on The Plains. The Gators have dropped 100 or more on multiple conference opponents for the first time in school history. To cap it all off, not only has Florida set a school record for points in a game against an SEC opponent, but they did it without their top big man.
Which now becomes the main concern. Egbunu will have an MRI today to see what the deal is with his knee. Yes, the Gators did fine with Hayes as the sole inside presence tonight, but that was against an Auburn team that seldom plays defense. And by “seldom plays defense,” I mean “given up 87 points or more allowed to eight of their thirteen SEC opponents.” So last night proved nothing. Florida is going to need Egbunu if they’re going to make the kind of run they’ve proven to be capable of in March, and while Hayes is certainly a capable backup, the Gators need every bit of production they can get as they prepare for a title quest.