Auburn's upset bid falls short against No. 2 Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Patric Young made a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left and Auburn threw the ball away on the ensuing inbounds play, helping the second-ranked Gators to a 71-66 victory on Wednesday night.
With No. 1 Syracuse losing to Boston College 62-59 in overtime, Florida could move into the top spot in The Associated Press college basketball poll for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
The victory was Florida's school-record 18th in a row and it kept the Gators (24-2, 13-0) perfect in Southeastern Conference play. It was also Florida's 31st consecutive home victory.
Young led the Gators with 17 points, all in the second half, and had seven rebounds. Casey Prather scored 16 points and Scottie Wilbekin had 15.
Tahj Shamsid-Deen led Auburn (12-12, 4-9) with 17 points. Chris Denson had 15 and K.T. Harrell 14.
After Young's free throws put the Gators ahead 68-66, Harrell glanced up-court and never saw Allen Payne's inbounds pass. The ball bounced out of bounds and the Gators sealed the victory from the free throw line.
Auburn nearly pulled the upset because of its 3-point shooting. The Tigers made 10 of 19 3-point shots, although they cooled off somewhat in the second half and made only 4 of 10. Auburn led 38-30 at halftime thanks to six 3-pointers. The eight-point deficit was Florida's largest halftime deficit of the season. The Gators' previous largest deficit was three points against Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Auburn led by as much as eight points early in the second half but the Gators worked their way back and the teams traded the lead into the final minute.
Auburn guard KT Harrell (1) tries to get past Florida forward Casey Prather (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday Feb. 19, 2014 in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Florida took a 66-65 lead on Michael Frazier's 3-pointer with 40.5 seconds to play, but the Tigers tied the game on a free throw by Denson with 20 seconds remaining. Young grabbed the rebound on the missed foul shot and was immediately fouled.
Young, a 55.9 percent career free throw shooter, hit his two free throws to give the Gators the lead for good. He added another free throw with four seconds to play to cap a monster second half.
Young grabbed six of his seven rebounds in the final 20 minutes. He missed his only shot from the floor in the first half and made 5 of 6 shots in the second half. The 17 points tied a season high.
Florida's last loss came on Dec. 2, 2013, against Connecticut.