Saturday night might be the coldest of the year in Gainesville, and certainly comes after one of the coldest days in Gainesville this year — one that began with rare scattered snow flurries and near-freezing temperatures. Yet inside the O'Connell Center, the Florida Gators were simply as hot as could be.
Florida rained nine threes on Auburn, shot nearly 57 percent from the field, and played suffocating defense throughout, roaring from the gate and crushing the Tigers by a 95-63 final score.
If a thing could go right for the Gators, it did. Dorian Finney-Smith led them with a season-high 24 points, one off his career high, and started the game 7-for-7 from the field. Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill each scored 14 points and made five shots after combining to score seven points and make three shots against Mississippi State, and combined for 12 assists as well. Four of five Florida starters finished in double figures, and the lone man off that plateau was Justin Leon — who got his eight points on three shots, all makes.
Even at the free throw line, the land of nightmares for the Gators this season and in recent years, Florida was phenomenal: The Gators went 20-for-24 from the charity stripe — and two of those misses were by KeVaughn Allen, their best foul shooter.
Auburn's Kareem Canty had just 12 points on 15 shots, well off his average, and the Gators held the Tigers' three-happy attack to 6-for-24 shooting from distance. This one was over when Florida responded to Auburn's 5-2 edge just 41 seconds in with an 18-0 run, but the Gators never let up, either, with Hill, Leon, and Allen all making spectacular plays on run-outs late in the second half.
To paraphrase a certain Florida luminary: The Gator Boys were hot tonight. And if they can keep whipping up firestorms like this one, they are very much capable of beating every team remaining on their schedule.