Auburn's 3-point shooting puts UF in early hole


Auburn guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen shoots and makes a 3-pointer over Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Wednesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 1:03 a.m.

Florida senior Casey Prather already had a close-up view of some offensive firepower in the first half, and the second half was not getting off to a much better start.

Auburn point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen made 5 of his first 8 shots in the first half (4 of 6 from 3-point range), many of them coming over the outstretched hands of Prather.

The freshman had 14 points, and the Gators were down a season-high eight points at halftime (38-30). After Shamsid-Deen started the second half with another deep conversion within the first minute, Florida coach Billy Donovan had seen enough.

Donovan was ready to make a defensive switch when Prather begged his coach to let him keep his assignment.

“I basically said if (Shamsid-Deen) gets one more off, you're coming off him, and as a matter of fact you're going to come out of the game,” Donovan said.

Prather and his teammates were up to the challenge, and the freshman remained at 17 points for the final 19 minutes of the game, as Florida went on to close out a 71-66 win.

“I begged my way back on him because I didn't want to go out like that,” Prather said. “I think (coach) knew that I was going to get the job done. I feel like he had trust in me since I've been here four years, and I'm just glad he kept me on him.”

Coming into the game ranked 13th in the SEC at 30.8 percent from 3-point range, Auburn found its stroke early and often at the O'Connell Center on Wednesday night.

“We have two of the best guards in the country in CD (Chris Denson) and KT (Harrell) and everybody game plans for those two, so tonight they just threw the extra pass and I was able to knock shots down,” Shamsid-Deen said. “They made me a lot better tonight.”

Led by Shamsid-Deen's outburst, the Tigers made 6 of their first 9 attempts (66.7 percent) to steal the early momentum.

“You've got to make some shots against Florida from behind the arc because of how they guard,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. “They make it hard to score around the paint or in the paint.”

The Tigers may have started fast, but finished the game with a series of late mistakes and misses that gave the Gators enough of an opening to seal their program-record 18th straight win.

“We struggled a lot defensively early in the game,” Prather said. “I think it took us to the second half just to realize we had to crank it up a gear.”

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