Jones leads Gators over Auburn in SEC Tourney

Florida Gators guard Lanita Bartley (3) celebrates with Jordan Jones (33) against the Auburn Tigers during the second half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Thursday Feb. 9, 2012, in Gainesville. The Gators defeated the Tigers 70-56.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 7:35 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jordan Jones scored 17 points as eighth-seeded Florida beat ninth-seeded Auburn 70-60 on Thursday in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.


Women's SEC Tournament

Who: No. 8 seed Florida (19-11) vs. No. 1 seed Kentucky (24-5)
When: 1 p.m. Friday
TV: FS Florida
Radio: 99.5-FM

The game marked the end of Auburn coach Nell Fortner's career. Fortner announced on Feb. 21 she was retiring after her eighth season with the Tigers and 18th year as a head coach.

The Gators (19-11) led by as many as 18 points in the second half and held a 57-41 lead when Hasina Muhammad tipped in a shot for Auburn. That basket launched a 10-2 run that cut Florida's lead to eight points with 2:46 to play, but the Tigers wouldn't get any closer.

The Gators stepped up down the stretch from the free throw line, converting 9-of-11 in the final 1:44 to seal the victory.

“I was proud of the way we played collectively because it's hard to keep playing hard when you're not playing as perfect as you want to,” UF coach Amanda Butler said. “I thought we did a good job of maintaining our composure, the push at the end, stepping up to the free throw line and having a lot of poise and knocking down those ones that really kept them from really getting in striking distance.”

Florida scored 20 points off 13 Auburn turnovers. The Gators gave away the ball 14 times, but those turnovers only led to eight points for the Tigers (13-17).

Florida faces top-seeded Kentucky (24-5) on Friday. The Wildcats, who captured their first SEC title in 30 years, have won four straight against the Gators, with each of the last three decided by five points or less. UK has won five of the last six decisions, as well as seven of the last nine against UF.

“They were close,” Butler said of the two regular-season games against Kentucky. “A couple possessions here and there. We know we're going to have to handle their pressure, be ready not to back down. I'm sure we're going to watch a lot of film tonight, so it will be an exciting game tomorrow.”

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