After a brief two-game road trip to the West Coast, No. 20 Auburn kicks off Southeastern Conference play Wednesday looking to build off one of its top performances of the season when it plays host to Florida.
Following a 74-71 loss to Southern California on Dec. 18, Bruce Pearl’s team dominated Washington 84-61 three nights later. Auburn (10-2) got 18 points each from Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome, shot 55.9 percent from the field (33 of 59), including 47.1 percent (8 of 17) from 3-point range, and outscored the Huskies 53-38 in the second half to secure the victory.
The Tigers also won the rebounding battle 42-24 and limited Washington to 36.8 percent (21 of 57) shooting from the floor, including 25 percent (5 of 20) from behind the arc.
“It was a really good road win against a Pac-12 club, and it was everybody,” Pearl said. “Our inside guys did great, our guards did great, we made shots, we defended. Our guys should feel good about the progress we made on this trip because I thought we played better at USC too.”
Broome has scored in double figures in six straight games for Auburn and he’s averaging 12.2 points and a team-leading 8.2 rebounds through 12 games. Broome is one of the top shot blockers in the country at 2.8 per game and is hot on the heels of Wendell Green Jr., who has averaged a team-leading 12.6 points.
Williams is one of Auburn’s best defenders, but his offense has come alive of late. Over his last three games, the forward has averaged 15.3 points, providing Pearl with much-needed oomph on offense.
Backup true freshman guard Tre Donaldson has seen his role increase with Green nursing an ankle injury. In the loss to USC, Donaldson had season highs in points (12) and steals (four). In the win over Washington, he had a season-high seven assists.
Florida (7-5) is looking to get back into the win column following a 62-53 loss to Oklahoma in the Jumpman Invitational at Charlotte, N.C.
If the Gators expect to upset Auburn on the road, they will have to shoot the ball better. Against the Sooners, Florida shot 32.8 percent (20 of 61) from the floor and went 2 of 22 (9.1 percent) from 3-point range.
Starters Trey Bonham (10.2 points), Kyle Lofton (8.4 points, 3.9 assists), Will Richard (10.7 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Alex Fudge (8.2 points, 5.4 boards) were a combined 8 of 32 from the field and 1 of 15 behind the arc against the Sooners, one of the nation’s top defensive teams.
“I thought we competed well, which is something we’ve emphasized getting better at,” Florida head coach Todd Golden said. “But to beat a good team you have to make shots.”
One positive for the Gators against Oklahoma was the play of big man Colin Castleton, who had 22 points and eight rebounds on 8-of-15 shooting. He enters the matchup with Auburn averaging 15.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.
–Field Level Media