Jacksonville Sports Day

SEC: No. 9 Auburn Beats Florida 85-73, Improves to 3-0 in SEC play

AUBURN, Ala. – Behind 23 points from K.D. Johnson, No. 9 Auburn defeated Florida 85-73 Saturday at Auburn Arena for the Tigers’ 11th consecutive victory, the third longest active win streak in D-I men’s basketball.

“He’s a dangerous man,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said of Johnson. “They can’t stay in front of him. He initiates contact. He did a great job getting downhill.”

With Jabari Smith in early foul trouble in each half, Jaylin Williams made 5-of-6 shots en route to a season-high 14 points, helping Auburn improve to 3-0 in the SEC with each victory by at least 12 points.

“I knew coming in I had to be very aggressive,” Williams said. “I was the next man up and I had to play well for my team.”

Smith and Wendell Green Jr. each scored 13 points, with Green helping Auburn’s bench outscore the Gators’ non-starters 35-9.

“I’ve never played with a team like this where your bench players can start over your starters every night,” said Johnson, acknowledging the crowd for chanting his name after he went to the floor after drawing a foul. “I love the Jungle. I’ve never played in something like this. They play a big part in our wins.”

Devan Cambridge energized the sold-out crowd early in the second half with back-to-back alley-oops from half court and beyond.

After Florida cut Auburn’s lead to one with a 3-pointer, Smith answered 15 seconds later with a 3 of his own to put the Tigers up 63-59.

“It’s just second nature to me,” said Smith, who made both of his 3-point attempts. Auburn shot 44.4 percent (8-for-18) on 3-pointers and 53.6 percent from the field.

“We all knew Jabari will make that shot nine times out of 10, maybe 10 out of 10,” Williams said.

Johnson and Green added 3-pointers down the stretch to help Auburn pull away, with the Tigers making their final four shots while the Gators (9-5, 0-2) missed 9 of 11 in the closing minutes.

“My confidence was high the whole game after I hit a couple 3s,” said Johnson, who made 3 of 4 3-point attempts. “We got some stops on defense and got the win.”

Auburn led 39-30 at halftime while outrebounding the Gators 19-11 in the opening 20 minutes. Walker Kessler grabbed seven of his eight boards in the first half and Dylan Cardwell added seven rebounds to help the Tigers outrebound Florida 39-30 on the night.

Johnson’s deep 3-pointer put the Tigers ahead 39-26, Auburn’s largest lead of the half, before the Gators scored the final four points.

The Tigers started quickly, thanks to another Johnson 3-pointer that gave Auburn a 15-7 lead. Johnson and Williams led Auburn with eight points apiece in the first half. Williams’ 4-point-play put Auburn ahead 22-11.

Green’s high-arcing 30-footer over 6-foot-11 Colin Castleton restored Auburn’s double-digit lead at 31-21. Castleton led Florida with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Green and Zep Jasper led Auburn with four assists each.

“Our focus is to try to win and get better,” Pearl said. “Cleary we’ll have to play our best game Tuesday night at Alabama, with their speed, quickness and athleticism. We’ll focus on this one coming up, and try not get too high, try not go get too low.”

GATOR NOTES: Florida drops to 5-3 in the Auburn series under Mike White, and UF now stands at 5-62 all-time in road games vs. AP top-10 opponents. After falling behind by 13 points early, 24-11, and trailing by nine at the half, 39-30, the Gators closed within one, 60-59, with 8:37 left in the game. Tyree Appleby came within one assist of a double-double, dishing nine, his most as a Gator. The point guard stuffed the box score with 11 points, four rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot. He also drew three offensive fouls on the Tigers. Colin Castleton posted 22 points and 10 rebounds, his second 20-point game of the season and earned his sixth double-double. It marked the first 20-point, 10-rebound game by a Gator since Castleton’s 21 and 10 vs. Ole Miss (1/12/21). Anthony Duruji added 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting, including a pair of finishes on Appleby alley-oops. Florida posted a 21-2 edge on second-chance points.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer

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