No. 4 Tigers look to bounce back at Florida following first loss

No. 4 Tigers look to bounce back at Florida following first loss
Auburn Tigers forward Danjel Purifoy (3) drives to the basket during the first half between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Coleman Coliseum. (Source: Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics)

AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Bruce Pearl’s No. 4 Auburn Tigers suffered their first loss of the season Wednesday night at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. The loss not only put the first blemish on Auburn’s record but dropped the team into a tie for second place in the SEC men’s basketball standings.

Auburn’s 64 points in Tuesday’s 83-64 loss were the fewest points scored for the team in an actual month of time. The last time Auburn scored that few points in a game was back on Dec. 14 when the Tigers defeated Saint Louis 67-61 in the Mike Slive Invitational.

Wednesday night, the Tigers shot just 31.7 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. The Tigers took 28 three-point attempts, making just seven total. Auburn also struggled at the free throw line, making 17 of 30 attempts.

After the game, Pearl said his Tigers were “sloppy offensively” specifying the pacing, timing and feeling aspects.

Now at 15-1 overall, the No. 4 Tigers are on the road again Saturday where they’ll take on the Florida Gators. Auburn played Florida twice last season, one time during the regular season and another time in the SEC Tournament Semifinals. Both games were wins for the Tigers. In the SEC Tournament, Auburn held on in a three-point win to advance to the championship game.

To this point in the 2019-20 season, Florida sits at 11-5 overall with the same conference record as Auburn at 3-1. The two teams are part of a four-team tie for second place in the standings behind unbeaten LSU.

The Gators average 73.8 points per game while holding their opponents to 66.4 points. They’re an efficient team, shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 32.3 percent beyond the arc, ranking fourth in the conference - three spots ahead of Auburn’s 31.6 percent.

Where Florida struggles is with its turnovers. The Gators average 12.1 turnovers per game. Auburn itself averages 13.4.

Florida is led in individual scoring by grad transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. Blackshear averages 15 points per game at the forward position as well as 8.4 rebounds, which also lead the team.

Auburn will need to keep Florida sharpshooters Keyontae Johnson (35.1 percent) and Noah Locke (40.2 percent) under wraps from three-point range.

One of its season woes Auburn will have to conquer is getting off to a fast start. Lately, the Tigers have averaged just 33.1 points in the first halves of their last 10 games dating back to Nov. 26 against Richmond. Auburn is shooting 38.3 percent from the field and just 25.6 percent from three in the first 20 minutes of the game in that span.

Tip-off from Exatech Arena in Gainesville is set for 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time.

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