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Florida 68, Auburn 61: Gators get another SEC road win by standing tall late

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Florida survived another SEC road trip by showing up and shutting Auburn down in the waning minutes on Saturday.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Florida couldn't get its threes to fall, and couldn't get Auburn to miss. It couldn't get through more than a couple minutes without a turnover, and couldn't find rhythm between dozens of whistles from the referees.

But Auburn's last really good chance to steal a home win from the Gators died when Patric Young, flat on his feet, caught one last layup attempt by K.T. Harrell. And Florida won, 68-61, on a day when it put together no better than a B-minus performance.

Casey Prather led the way for Florida with 21 points off the bench in his return from injury, but only two other Gators — Scottie Wilbekin, with 15 points, and Patric Young, with 13 — joined him in double figures. And Prather put in just five of his points after halftime: Florida's offense, down the stretch, boiled down to Young hitting hooks in the lane (5-for-8 on the day) and clutch play from Wilbekin, including a stepback with 1:24 left that put Florida up three and Auburn into panic mode.

The Tigers wouldn't make a shot after Wilbekin's, as Harrell (18 points) and Chris Denson (21 points) finally went cold on a day that saw Auburn sink seven of its 11 threes, including its first six. Those threes rallied the Tigers back from an early deficit that yawned open to 13 points midway through the first half, and exploited Florida's most obvious weakness — poor perimeter defense — to finish the first half down just 33-32.

But those threes could never give Auburn a lead in the second half — they couldn't even tie the game. The Tigers sliced Florida's edge to one point at four different junctures in the second half, but never pulled even or ahead, with the Gators responding to every close moment with points or defense.

And though Auburn's no one's idea of an NCAA Tournament team, the Tigers have played all of their four SEC games for a full 40 minutes so far, and gave Florida their best shot on the plains this evening.

It wasn't enough to beat this Florida team, and that wasn't this Florida team at its best.