No. 4 Auburn tries to rebound from first loss at Florida

NCAA Men's Basketball
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Fresh off its first loss, No. 4 Auburn visits Southeastern Conference rival Florida on Saturday in Gainesville, Fla.

The Tigers (15-1, 3-1) shot just 32 percent — including hitting just 7 of 28 from 3-point range — and committed 21 turnovers in an 83-64 defeat at Alabama on Wednesday night. Auburn, which averages 80.9 points and surrenders 67.3, allowed a season high in points while scoring a season low.

Senior guards J’Von McCormick, who has replaced departed star Jared Harper, and Samir Doughty likely will need to be better vs. Florida. Against the Crimson Tide, McCormick (11.2 points) had three assists and a turnover, and Doughty (15.1 points) had three assists and seven turnovers.

“We were very sloppy offensively — spacing, timing, feel,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl told reporters. “A lot of that starts with our point guards. We’ll have another opportunity to sure that up.

“We don’t just shoot it well enough offensively to make up for what we don’t execute or space, and it caught up to us (against Alabama).”

Auburn’s starting frontline is comprised of 6-foot-6 freshman Isaac Okoro (13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds), 6-7 senior Danjel Purifoy (9.5, 5.1) and 6-11 senior Austin Wiley (10.7, 9.7).

The Gators (11-5, 3-1) will try to build off Tuesday night’s bounce-back 71-55 home victory against Ole Miss. Florida was coming off a blowout loss at Missouri.

Gators coach Mike White knows his team will need to be at its best against Auburn, which has won 27 of 29 games dating back to last season’s Final Four run.

“A team with not only experience but winning experience at a high level coming off a Final Four,” White said of Auburn. “Probably one of the more underrated backcourts in the country. Elite speed and quickness.”

The Gators are led by 6-foot-10 graduate-transfer forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. (15.0 points, 8.4 rebounds), sophomore forward Keyontae Johnson (13.0, 6.8) and sophomore guard Andrew Nembhard (11.1, 5.9 assists).

Often overshadowed by Blackshear and Johnson, Nembhard has averaged more than seven assists his past five games.

“Andrew has as good a vision as anybody in our league, (and) probably most guys, if not everyone, in college basketball,” said White, who notched his 100th victory in his 158th game with Florida on Tuesday to reach the milestone faster than anyone except Billy Donovan (154 games).

Sophomore Noah Locke and freshman Omar Payne round out the Gators starting unit. Locke is the team’s top 3-point shooter, having hit 40.2 percent (37 of 92).

Florida, looking to snap a six-game home losing streak vs. top-five opponents, will be wearing black uniforms for the nationally televised game. The Gators have averaged 73.8 points and surrendered 66.4 points this season.

Auburn has won the last two meetings with Florida after having dropped 11 straight and 21 of 22 in the series.

–Field Level Media

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