Men's Basketball Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
AUBURN, Ala. -- When the Florida Gators last visited Auburn Arena they scored 45 points and barely escaped for the lowest-scoring win in the Billy Donovan era.
There was no such drama Saturday.
Or lack of productivity.
Senior guard Mike Rosario scored 22 points, including 18 in the first half, and freshman guard Michael Frazier rained a hail storm of 3-pointers -- making six of seven -- as the seventh-ranked Gators flourished in one of their sharpest all-around performances of the season in rolling the Auburn Tigers 83-52 for a third straight victory.
The win allowed Florida (21-3, 11-1) to maintain a two-game lead on Alabama in the Southeastern Conference standings. It also was the fifth time this season the Gators had defeated a league opponent by at least 30, with UF's victory margin in the SEC now standing at nearly 22.8 points.
"From the outside looking in, it may look like we're supposed to win these games like this -- but it's much harder than you think," senior guard Kenny Boynton said after UF's first trip away from home since being trounced at Arkansas on Feb. 5. "We were focused and locked in for this game. If you want to do what we're trying to do, you've got to get the road wins. As many as you can."
Shooting 57.4 percent from the floor, including a season-high 15 makes on 30 shots from the 3-point line, and limiting the opponent to 35.2 percent will go a long way toward winning away from home.
Or anywhere, for that matter.
So will sharing the ball the way the Gators did Saturday.
"The way we play, different games are going to be different guys' nights," Rosario said.
With the Tigers (9-16, 3-9) concentrating mostly on packing the paint around center Patric Young (just two points on three field-goal tries) in the low post, the floor was spaced for the Gators to work the passing lanes, attack the lane for kickouts, and get clear 3-point looks all afternoon.
Young and forward Erik Murphy got nary a touch on the block in the first half, combining for just five points. That was OK. The Tigers were so preoccupied with denying UF's bigs, everything else was open.
"Teams are going to guard you differently, so you have to take advantage of what's there and open," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "Auburn did a really good job of converging on the post [and] it's hard to get it all the way to the basket with the way they play. What was open in the game was the perimeter and our ball movement. We did a really good job of making the extra pass."
Frazier had his half-dozen 3s. Rosario made a couple. Boynton went 4-for-9 from out there to finish with 16 points. Murphy stepped out to go 3-for-4 on his way to 11 points and six rebounds. Collectively, the backcourt of Scottie Wilbekin (6 points, 4 rebounds career high-tying 10 assists), Rosario (5) and Boynton (3) accounted for 18 of the team's 25 assists.
"We just played one of the best teams in the country," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "They make you look bad."
The Tigers are a physical bunch that surrender nothing inside without a fight. Donovan told his team it would have to match that physicality from the opening tip.
As they've done the better part of the season, the Gators paid heed to the scouting report.
"We did a good job of throwing the first punch," Boynton said.
UF scored the game's first two baskets, led by 10 after five minutes, by 15 after 11and went to the locker room on a 10-3 spree to end the half, thanks to a Wilbekin jumper at the buzzer, and with a 45-22 advantage.
Along the way, Rosario dazzled the Tigers with an array of offense. Through the first 20 minutes, he went 7-for-9 from the floor, helping the Gators make 18 of 30 shots (60 percent), including 7-for-15 from distance.
"I just felt with me being in rhythm and me being aggressive early I told myself I was going to take what the defense gave me," said Rosario, who led the team in scoring for the 10th time this season; the third time in the last four games. "I don't want to take challenged 2s and challenges 3s. I just tried to stay aggressive on the offensive end."
The Gators, collectively, did the same on the other end.
In the first half, Auburn had more turnovers (10) than field goals (8).
"You can't make the mistakes that we made against them," Tigers guard Frankie Sullivan said. "They're not going to breakdown too many times."
Especially after building a comfortable lead. The Gators biggest was 36 with just over eight minutes to play. They had removed any doubt about the outcome long before that.
"We've got a bulls-eye on our back now, and Coach is always talking about how these types of teams are going to come in and hit you with their best shot," said Frazier, who is now shooting a ridiculous 60 percent from 3-point range (24 of 40) in SEC play. "We came out swinging, put them on their heels then did a great job of playing the right way. Playing as a team."