You could be forgiven for not caring much about Florida’s 74-57 win over Auburn on Tuesday night — with Sharife Cooper announced as a scratch just before tipoff thanks to an ankle turned over the weekend, ESPN’s broadcast did everything in its power to talk about anything but the game that was airing.
But the games that Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis had deserved a little more respect than that.
Mann scored 19 points and vacuumed up 13 rebounds for his first career double-double, also dishing three assists and recording two steals, and Lewis showed out as a defender and scorer, contributing 16 points off the bench and tallying five steals in maybe the best night of his sophomore campaign.
Those two were almost more than enough for Auburn by themselves, at least early on. After a triple by the Tigers to open scoring and an early timeout by Mike White in response, the Gators sprinted off on an extended 25-5 run fueled in part by terrible ball security from the Tigers. With just more than five minutes left in the first half, a three by Lewis made the score 30-13 in the Gators’ favor.
It would be 44-22 at halftime, and never got closer than 15 points in the second half, despite Auburn briefly stymieing the Gators with a full-court press and some iffy shooting by both sides. Florida finished the evening at just 44 percent shooting from the field and made only 11 of 16 free throws, though it did sink seven of 20 threes; Auburn needing 31 tries to make seven threes of its own and committing 21 turnovers in Cooper’s absence, though, left a second straight Florida opponent with a terribly inefficient night from the field.
Tyree Appleby joined Mann and Lewis in double figures with 11 points, and committed just one turnover after recording 12 in his previous two games. Florida’s starting frontcourt of Colin Castleton and Anthony Duruji was relatively quiet, however, combining for 14 points on 15 shots and doing much of its damage by hauling down a combined 14 rebounds, half of them on the offensive end.
Florida’s final two games — a Saturday visit to Kentucky and next week’s Senior Night showdown with Missouri — promise to be far harder than these last two have been.
But the Gators taking care of business as they were expected to against Georgia and Auburn has them well-positioned for a top-four seed in the SEC Tournament — and all but locked into the NCAA Tournament field.