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January 20, 2011Florida couldn't hit threes all night, but managed to find a hot streak when it counted.
The Tigers held the lead for the majority of the game, but fell to the Gators 45-40 in the final minutes at the Auburn Arena Thursday night.
Florida made just 19 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, but consecutive threes from Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker made it a 43-40 game in the Gators' favor with 1:14 remaining.
"You cant give them an opportunity," said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. "And we gave them an opportunity."
The final ended up being the lowest scoring game of the regular season and the closest SEC contest of the year for Auburn.
It was also the lowest Auburn score since the Tigers defeated Mississippi State in the 1982 SEC tournament. Auburn won 38-36 in overtime.
Tonight's loss was the lowest Auburn score since the shot clock was instituted. The 45 points from Florida was the lowest Gator output since head coach Billy Donovan arrived 15 years ago.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, junior forward Kenny Gabriel found a silver lining.
"If you grade our defense, I give us an A because we fought," Gabriel said.
The Gators and Tigers kept it neck and neck for the first seven minutes of play before Auburn took off the with the lead. The Tigers eventually led by seven with 9:33 on the clock with the help of a three-pointer from sophomore guard Earnest Ross. Ross chipped in two more before the half was over.
Going into the game, Ross was shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc. He went 3-for-4 at the end of the night. His sole miss was the shot that would have tied the game at 43.
Barbee obviously wasn't pleased with the outcome, but like Gabriel, he recognized a positive.
"We are what we are," Barbee said. "I'm not happy because I will never be happy with a loss, but I'm more pleased that tonight they grasped that if you will play tough, scrappy, nasty and mean, you will give yourself a chance every night."
Gabriel led the offensive charge with 12 points. He added four rebounds, a steal and an assist.
Ross finished the game with 11 points and three steals and went 4-for-6 in field goals. Allen Payne recorded six rebounds.
As a team, the Tigers went 1-for-8 at the free throw line.
Sophomore forward Ty Armstrong made his first appearance of the season after tearing his left ACL in mid-August. Armstrong scored two points and added three rebounds in his eight minutes of play.
"He (Armstrong) begged me to play, I was comfortable with what he was giving us in practice," Barbee said.
Walker led the Gators with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Boynton finished with nine points.
The next Auburn home game will be held Saturday, Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. when the Tigers take on Alabama.