Ugly. Brutal. Awful.
Those are three words that can describe Florida’s performance Thursday night at Auburn.
But in the end, the only thing that really matters is this: UF 45, AU 40.
In what was possibly their worst performance of the season, the Gators were fortunate the Tigers are just that bad, or else Florida (14-4) would not be tied with South Carolina atop the SEC East with a 3-1 league mark.
Coach Billy Donovan tried to put a positive spin on the game.
“It was one of the best wins I’ve been a part of,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a game as a player or a coach watching us struggle to shoot the ball as badly as we did.”
How horrendous was it?
Finishing with the lowest point total in the 15-year, 488-game Donovan Era, the Gators were victorious despite making just 15-of-53 shots (28.3 percent), including only 5-of-26 from three-point range (19.2 percent). And they were equal opportunity clankers, shooting 27.6 percent in the first half and 29.2 percent in the second.
Additionally, they had 14 turnovers compared to just nine assists and went scoreless at one point for 7:21 and another for 5:56 and yet another for 4:17.
Fortunately for Florida, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, a combined 6-for-28 from the field (4-for-18 on threes), sank the biggest shots they took.
Auburn (7-11, 0-4) had a 40-37 lead with 1:51 remaining when Boynton drilled a three-pointer just to the left of the top of the key. After a stop, Walker followed up with a long-ball of his own 37 seconds later before drawing a charge on the Tigers’ Earnest Ross (11 points, three rebounds) with 56.1 seconds to play.
If positives (aside from the win) can be taken from the game, UF did shoot 10-for-14 (71.4 percent) from the foul line, included in that was a 5-for-5 first half. And Auburn was held scoreless for the final 3:30 of the contest. The Gators also ended the dry spell in rebound differential.
After outrebounding 13 of 14 non-conference opponents, Mississippi and South Carolina grabbed more boards than UF, while Tennessee and Florida pulled down the same number.
Led by Chandler Parsons’ and Vernon Macklin’s six each, the Gators finished the game with a 40-32 rebounding advantage.
But really, that’s about it. As far as memories go, this one would best be forgotten.
*Senior center Vernon Macklin played despite strep throat. He scored six points and grabbed six rebounds in 19 minutes. Freshman Patric Young started in Macklin’s place and contributed two points, three rebounds, one blocked shot and a steal in 19 minutes.
*Sophomore power forward Erik Murphy returned after a four-game absence with a foot injury. He didn’t score (going 0-for-2 from the floor), but did grab three rebounds in just six minutes.
*Auburn’s Ty Armstrong, who played for Gainesville Eastside High School through his junior year, returned from a season-long knee injury to score two points and grab three rebounds in eight minutes against his former hometown team. His Tigers held a halftime lead, 24-23, for the first time this year in SEC play.
Gator(Gr)ade: D (only this high because they won)
Gator Player of the Game: No award given.
Opposing Players of the Game: Earnest Ross came off the bench to score 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting (3-for-4 on three-pointers) with three rebounds and a game-high three steals.
Play/sequence of the Game: Erving Walker sank a three-pointer and followed that up by drawing a charge on Ross. Both came with right around a minute to play.
Stat of the Game: The winning team shot 28.3 percent from the floor.
Next Up: The Gators will host Arkansas (12-5, 2-2) on Saturday at 8 p.m.