Tigers Can’t Clinch Against Gators
Mustpaha Heron led all Auburn scorers in the Tigers 72-66 loss to Florida. (photo: Auburn media file)
All Auburn had to do was win one more game to secure at least partial ownership of the SEC Regular Season championship. To do so, the Tigers needed to knock off the ailing Gators, who were on a three-game skid. Florida has been one of the enigmatic teams in the SEC, right alongside Kentucky, though certainly not to the level of the Wildcats. Florida, although overshadowed by Kentucky, was once a national powerhouse . But since Billy Donovan left, the Gators haven’t been the same.
It sure didn’t look that way Saturday against Auburn. Florida led by six at the break, and though Auburn fought back from deficits as high as 14 points, the Gators knocked off No. 12 Auburn by six. Much like the loss at Alabama earlier this season, Auburn was done in by a massive output from a bench player. Although KeVaughn Allen didn’t start, he had a 24-point outing. The Tigers were able to limit Chris Chiozza, the up-and-down guard who averages 11 points an outing, but it was Chiozza’s 12, yes 12, assists that killed the Tigers.
Turnovers also killed Auburn as the Tigers had 16 turnovers to Florida’s nine. Elsewhere, the Tigers had pretty solid shooting both at the line and from the field. The Tigers hit 80 percent of their free throws and 35 percent of their long balls. It wasn’t a great night, but it should have been enough to win but for the turnovers.
“It’s tough, but I think that’s a hole that we dug ourselves in,” points-leader Mustpaha Heron said. “We can’t do things like that, especially on the road. It’s a lot harder on the road to come back with the crowd against you and different factors against you. I think we dug ourselves in that hole, and that’s something we’ve got to go back and look at the film and work on.” Heron had a solid outing with 22 points.
Point guard Jared Harper had an off night with just two assists on three turnovers. He added just eight points. Bryce Brown had three assists. Horace Spencer filled in admirably for injured Anfernee McLemore by adding three blocks.
Chuma Okeke continues to garner more and more minutes as he produces good numbers. The freshman had another double-double with 10 rebounds and 12 points.
Auburn still needs one game to clinch the SEC title as it remains one game ahead of Tennessee. The Tigers travel to Arkansas Tuesday night.
“We have to go back and look at the film, get better and get ready for Tuesday,” Heron said. “It’s a short turnaround, so [we have to] get ready for Tuesday.”
Fayetteville is always a tough venue. Still, ESPN BPI gives the Tigers a 51-percent chance to beat the Hogs. After a solid drubbing at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats, the Hogs returned as the top scoring team in the SEC by destroying Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. They are 28th in the country with 82.2 points per game thanks to to hot shooting. But the Razorbacks can’t rebound or stop anyone from scoring. They rank 261st in the nation, allowing 75 points per game. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon lead the Hogs with 18 and 17 points per game, respectively. Auburn must contain the senior guards. Both will shoot the long ball, and they do it well. It will be on Brown and Harper to try and limit the guards to taking bad shots.
This should be a fun game to watch.
Tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m. CT on the Auburn Sports Network and SEC Network.