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Florida 114, Auburn 95: Gators poach Tigers with sharp shooting

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The Gators scald their way to yet another win and yet another school record.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

At halftime on Valentine’s Day, after a first half played at the sort of pace that racehorses would never dare reach, the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers each had 50 points, and the Gators were down one John Egbunu.

After the break, Florida somehow found yet another gear — and at game’s end, the Gators had a 114-95 win that could get any heart racing.

Florida was led by a Gators-high 30 points from Canyon Barry. His efficiency ebbed in the second stanza, as he got his first 15 points on just six shots and took 12 more to get his full total, and his school record for consecutive free throws made was extended to 42 in the first half before his first miss from the line of 2017.

But all five Florida starters, Egbunu included, scored in double figures, with Kasey Hill registering his first double-double since a December rout of Little Rock by pairing his 11 points with a career-high 12 assists and KeVaughn Allen chipping in all 17 of his points after halftime. And Chris Chiozza and Kevarrius Hayes combined for 20 points off the bench, making this an absurdly rare game in which both Florida’s starters and bench contributed over 50 points.

Florida shot nearly 56 percent from the field, nearly 58 percent from three, and went a nigh unbelievable 37-for-42 from the line. Florida scored 1.37 points per possession — its fourth-best mark for the Mike White era, and a top-30 mark for the Gators in the KenPom era that dates to 2001-02 — and did that while playing at and beyond Auburn’s preferred tempo, with nary a drought to lament.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Gators broke a school record for points in an SEC game, re-broke one for points in regulation in an SEC game they set less than three weeks ago at LSU, and scored more points on Auburn than any team had since 1994.

And it’s thrilling to think that Florida conceding 95 points, its most of this season by 11 points, still didn’t prevent these Gators from winning by 19.

Florida’s concerns for the near future will now turn to the health of Egbunu, who left the game in the first half with a knee injury. The towering center was able to make it to the locker room under his own power, and was initially listed as questionable to return, but was ultimately ruled out of the game.

White said after the game that Egbunu will have an MRI on Wednesday.

Florida did score its last 80 points or so on this night without Egbunu, yes, and with his absence making the foul trouble Hayes and Keith Stone exquisitely painful: It necessitated the deployment of Schuyler Rimmer for 10 minutes. But getting him healthy, and soon, is of paramount importance: After a weekend trip to Mississippi State, Florida will play its most important week of games all year in the last week of February by hosting South Carolina and visiting Kentucky.

And while nights like tonight strongly imply that this team is capable of amazing feats even when not at full strength, chasing championships is best done with all hands on deck.