No letdown on road for No. 7 Florida


Florida's Mike Rosario shoots a 3-pointer in the first half against Auburn on Saturday in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst)

Published: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 3:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:28 p.m.

AUBURN, Ala. — Florida senior Mike Rosario has learned this season to take what opposing defenses are giving him.

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Florida's Mike Rosario shoots a 3-pointer in the first half against Auburn on Saturday in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst)

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“I don't want to take challenged 2(-point shots) or challenged 3(-point shots),” Rosario said. “I just try to stay aggressive on the offensive end.”

Behind a season-high 22 points from Rosario, No. 7 Florida avoided any kind of letdown Saturday. The Gators (21-3, 11-1 SEC) pummeled the Tigers 83-52 at Auburn Arena, handing Auburn its worst home loss since an 88-48 loss to Kentucky on Jan. 30, 1952.

Former Auburn president Jim Martin was the starting center on that 1952 team, while former Georgia football coach Vince Dooley was Auburn's starting shooting guard. But even a team with fabled Auburn alums Charles Barkley and Chuck Person would have been hard-pressed to beat the Gators on Saturday, considering how well Florida shot and moved the ball. Florida shot 50 percent from 3-point range while making a season-high 15 3-pointers (15-of-30). The Gators also finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 25 to 9.




“We had good ball movement, good player movement, and at times I thought we did a really, really good job defensively,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Rosario was terrific early, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the first half. His prettiest basket was a hanging reverse layup on a bounce-pass from Casey Prather, and he followed it up with a steal and breakaway layup that resulted in a three-point play to extend UF's early lead to 25-10.

“He was very good,” Donovan said. “I thought he took great shots. I thought he could have had the same kind of second half. We were just a little bit too loose.”

It was a big day for all of UF's guards. Freshman Michael Frazier II added 18 points off the bench, going 6-of-7 from 3-point range. Kenny Boynton had 16 points and four assists, and starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin had six points and 10 assists.

Auburn's game plan was to collapse on Patric Young and Erik Murphy early. Florida stayed patient, moving the ball around the perimeter like a hot potato until finding an open shooter.

“They did a really good job converging in on the post, and it's really hard to get the ball inside with the way they play,” Donovan said. “What was open in the game was the perimeter and the ball movement, and we did a really good job of making the extra pass.”

Playing its first road game since an 80-69 loss at Arkansas, Florida started the game with better intensity. The Gators jumped to an early 13-3 lead.

“We did a great job setting the tone,” Boynton said. “Every loose ball we tried to get. We did a great job at attacking them. I think defensively we had a good day.”

Rosario scored nine of UF's first 16 points, making his first two 3-point attempts.

“Once I started getting in a rhythm and I was getting open looks, I was taking them and they were falling for me,” Rosario said.

About the only highlight for Auburn in the first half was its student section's performance of the “Harlem Shake” during a TV timeout. After Auburn senior Noel Johnson's 3-pointer cut Florida's lead to 37-22, the Gators closed the half with a 10-0 run. Boynton and Frazier hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the flurry. Rosario followed with a 16-footer, and Wilbekin hit a jumper in the lane to put Florida up 47-22 at halftime.

Florida scored more points in the first half (47) than it did in its last meeting two years ago at Auburn, a 45-40 UF win. Florida's guards scored 38 of its 47 points in the first half.

“Some nights are going to be different guys' nights,” Rosario said. “I felt Murph and Pat gave a really big presence in the frontcourt down low so that opened up shots outside for the guards, and I felt we took advantage of that and took good ones.”

Defensively, Florida scored 16 points off turnovers in the first half, 18 for the game. Auburn had 10 of its 14 turnovers in the first half.

“They make you look bad,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “They are a very good team. They have great guard play. They have two big guys who know their roles and do their job. It's obvious why they are one of the best teams in the country and in our conference.”

The Gators held Auburn to 35.2 percent from the floor and held an opponent under 60 points for the 18th time this season.

“Our press was really good,” Donovan said. “I thought when we came in with Casey (Prather) the press was really good and then when Casey picked up the second foul, we were fortunate enough to get through the half with Patric and Erik having just one.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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