It’s a good thing that No. 2 Florida decided to throw up their stinker on Wednesday night.
The Gators survived Auburn in Gainesville — and I stress survived, but I’ll get to that in a second — 71-66, and if they played the way they did against Auburn last Saturday against Kentucky, they would have lost by 20. If they play this was this coming Saturday at Ole Miss, they’ll lose.
I don’t want to take the credit away from Auburn, because for 39 minutes and 40 seconds, they were absolutely tremendous, but this was not a promising performance from Florida. All those concerns we have about their inconsistencies on the offensive end of the floor? The question marks about the number of guys that are able to create their own look? That was all on display on Wednesday.
This shouldn’t exactly be surprising, either.
At this point in the season, these kids are tired. Physically and mentally. They’ve been practicing — some teams for three hours a day — since late September, their schedules loaded with travel and, for some, more than enough schoolwork to keep them busy. The season is a grind, and, at this point, many of the teams that already have locked up tournament bids can easily overlook a game against a team like Auburn.
It’s hard to get up for a game against a team in the bottom of the league, particularly in a situation like Florida, where they’re just three days removed from the biggest win of their season.
And on the nights where that opponents comes to play, as Auburn did, that’s when upsets can happen.
Now let’s get to Auburn: the Tigers were awesome. For the most part, they played well defensively, holding Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II to just 7-for-24 shooting from the floor. They shot 47.8% from the field, 10-for-19 from three and committed just nine turnovers against one of the nation’s best defenses. Think about it like this: they had a chance to take the lead with 20 seconds left at Florida.
And that’s when it all went up in flames. Watch:
Chris Denson missed the go-ahead free throw. On the rebound, with the game tied, Asauhn Dixon-Tatum fouled Patric Young because he didn’t know what the score was. After Young hit both free throws, Allen Payne threw the ball away because A) Auburn didn’t have any timeouts left and B) they didn’t have a play drawn up for the final possession.
That’s as disastrous as a final 20 seconds as you will ever see.
Part of that is coaching. You have to make sure your team knows time and score in that situation, and it’s inexcusable for them to be unprepared for a last second possession even without the benefit of a timeout. That should be worked on every day during practice.
Part of the blame falls on the players, as well. Dixon-Tatum cannot rely on his coach telling him what the score is every possession, and there has to be at least one person bright enough on the floor to run back to the inbounder and get the ball.
Auburn has to be better.