Gators survive Tigers with 13-7 run in overtime
Published: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 1:00 a.m.
AUBURN, Ala -- After all the craziness, Florida's road opener in the Southeastern Conference came down to what coach Billy Donovan feared.
A shooting contest.
Only starting point Anthony Roberson proved that he had a little more ammunition left than sharp-shooting Auburn freshman Toney Douglas.
Roberson scored eight straight points in overtime after Douglas hit a desperation shot to tie the score in regulation, and Florida escaped with an 84-78 win at Beard-Eaves Coliseum, improving to 10-3 and 2-0 in the SEC in improbable fashion.
"A strange game," Roberson said.
That about sums it up.
Roberson's 34-point night answered a 25-foot, turn-around 3-pointer at the buzzer by Douglas, who was falling out of bounds on one-leg with Florida guard Lee Humphrey on him like a blanket.
"I knew when it left my hands it was going in," Douglas said. "For real. I've been practicing that shot in the backyard for some time."
Douglas caught the ball off a three-quarters in-bounds pass by Quinnel Brown. Auburn coach Jeff Lebo called two time outs after Roberson missed the second of two free throws, leaving the score at 71-68, which set the stage for Douglas's wild shot.
"It was a lob and I thought maybe one of our guys could have closed in and tipped it," Donovan said. "He caught it and made the shot. I'm just proud of the way our guys responded. We overcame a lot of mistakes."
Florida missed 3 of 4 free throws in the final 9 seconds, which took the shine off an inspired defensive stand down the stretch. Freshman Corey Brewer made two big steals in the final minute of regulation and senior forward David Lee took a charge with 11 seconds remaining. Brewer's second pick of Auburn point guard Ian Young appeared to have clinched the game, but Roberson, after making his first, missed his only free throw of the game.
Brewer finished with a career-high 14 for Florida and Lee scored all 10 of his points in the second half and overtime.
Florida could have folded at the end of regulation. Instead, the Gators came out inspired. Overtime turned into a shooting contest between Roberson and Douglas. Douglas, who came in as the SEC's leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, finished with 32.
"I just prayed to God I'd end hitting one more shot than he did," Roberson said.
Roberson began the overtime with a 3-pointer off a kick-out from Lee to put Florida up 74-71. Roberson then answered a Douglas jumper with a runner in the lane to maintain the 3-point lead at 76-73.
The early points helped settle down the initial shock of the tying shot.
"You can't do much about the shot," Lee said. "The guys in the huddle were pretty upbeat. We knew it was just five more minutes of fighting. The first shot Roberson hit was big."
"We got the ball inside to Lee and he kicked it out to Roberson for the open shot," Donovan said. "That kind of got us going a little bit."
Roberson's second 3-pointer, with 1:35 left in the extra period, extended Florida's lead to 79-75.
"I put the game on my shoulders," Roberson said. "I really told myself this overtime had to be my overtime.
"I felt like I had to step up and win the game for my teammates. I wanted all the last shots of each possession to come to me. I wanted to win the game for them because they played so hard and so well."
A Douglas 3-pointer pulled Auburn within 80-78 with 1:07 left, but Lee was fouled by Nathan Watson going to the basket with 39.3 seconds. Lee made both free throws to put Florida up 82-78, and Roberson hit two more free throws after a Watson miss to close out the game.
Down 41-36 early in the second half, Florida went on a 19-4 run to build a 10-point second-half lead. The Gators couldn't expand it, allowing Auburn to get back in the game down the stretch.
Auburn, which had a full week to prepare for its SEC home opener, dared Florida to shoot from outside in the first half with a variety of zone defenses.
Florida sank its first four shots to build a 10-5 lead. But the Tigers were able to contain Lee early. Lee was whistled for an offensive foul on his first drive to the basket and was called for a travel on his second possession.
Lee, forced to sit out the final 5:35 of the first half after picking up his second foul, was held scoreless with one rebound and two assists in the half.
"Auburn showed me early on they weren't going to let me see anything but double teams the entire game," Lee said. "Auburn fought very hard. They're a quick team."
Still, Florida built a 28-20 lead with Roberson shooting from all angles. With Roberson on the bench, Auburn went on a 9-0 run, reclaiming the lead 29-28 on a Quinnel Brown 3-pointer.
Auburn extended the lead to six on a Young 3-pointer with 54 seconds left. But Roberson answered with his fourth 3-pointer of the half with 18.6 seconds remaining, a 21-footer from outside the top of the key, to pull Florida within 39-36 at halftime.
Auburn out-scored Florida 20-16 in the paint in the first half and scored nine points off nine first-half Florida turnovers.
"We played to Auburn's strengths a little bit, instead of playing to our strengths," Donovan said.
Still, it ended up a road win in the SEC. However improbable it seemed.
"We showed a lot," Roberson said. "This is just our second SEC game. We'll grow from this."
Comments are currently unavailable on this article