Gators blow out Tigers
GAINESVILLE — Dorian Finney-Smith continued his torrid scoring streak. His latest performance helped Florida extend its dominance against Auburn.
Finney-Smith scored 24 points, Kasey Hill added 14 off the bench and the Gators beat the Tigers for the ninth consecutive time, 95-63 on Saturday night.
Chris Choizza (14 points), John Egbunu (12) and KeVaughn Allen (11) also reached double figures for Florida (13-6, 5-2 Southeastern Conference), which won its third consecutive league game for the first time since the start of last season.
"We made shots. We got stops. We got in transition. We got good looks and we shot the ball with confidence tonight," Finney-Smith said. "We're shooting the ball a lot better right now. Hopefully we can keep it going."
Auburn (9-9, 3-4) has dropped 19 of 20 in the series, including 11 straight in Gainesville.
This was as lopsided as any of them.
Florida opened up a double-digit lead in the first five minutes of the game and was ahead 31-10 a short time later. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl called timeout, changed personnel and switched defenses, but nothing worked.
"They got off to a great start," Pearl said. "They physically dominated us inside, kind of had their way with us. ... They got the ball inside and they shot it great. They just played very, very well together, and we didn't put up much resistance. They got whatever they wanted inside, anytime they wanted it."
Tyler Harris led the Tigers with 14 points. Leading scorer Kareem Canty finished with 12 on 6-of-14 shooting. Canty was 0 for 6 from 3-point range.
The Gators essentially won thanks to a blistering shooting night, especially early. They made 11 of their first 16 shots, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and were up 31-10 after less than 10 minutes of action.
Finney-Smith set the tone, scoring eight of the team's first 15 points. The fifth-year senior entered the game with three consecutive double-doubles and four in his last five games. He finished with eight boards, two shy of a fourth straight double-double. He has 78 points in the last four games.
"I'm just believing in the process, trusting that if I put the work in good things are going to happen," Finney-Smith said.
Finney-Smith had 15 points and six rebounds at the break. Egbunu was nearly as good, heading into the half with 11 points and six boards.
Little went wrong for the Gators early, as demonstrated by one of Finney-Smith buckets. With the shot clock winding down, Hill started to take a jumper but instead dumped the ball inside to Kevarrius Hayes, who threw up a wild shot. Finney-Smith got the rebound and dunked it home.
Suddenly, a team that had no offensive identity early in the season looks like it has a plan and the potential to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
"Dorian's playing like an all-league player," Florida coach Mike White said. "It probably starts with him. John has made a big jump with his game. We've done a better job of getting those two guys the ball in the right spots, in better spots at least. And therefore we're getting better shots."
Auburn: Last beat Florida on March 13, 2009, in the SEC Tournament. ... Pearl ripped off his suit jacket in the second half, revealing significant sweat marks. The jacket went back on a few minutes later.
Florida: Topped 80 points for the third straight game. ... Extended the program's streak of consecutive games with a 3-pointer to 816. The streak started in January 1992.
The Gators shot a season-high 56.9 percent from the floor, making 33 of 58 shots. They hit 9 of 19 from 3-point range and 20 of 24 from the free-throw line. They also outrebounded Auburn 44-31. "They're shooting it well in conference play now," Pearl said. "They're firing on all cylinders now. They really are."
Auburn plays at Mississippi on Wednesday.
Florida plays at Vanderbilt on Tuesday.