Auburn Tigers vs. Florida Gators Pick & Prediction MARCH 17th 2024

When Florida hosted Auburn on Feb. 10, the Gators played one of their best games of the season and blew out the Tigers 81-65, establishing a 42-26 lead at the break and pushing the margin as high as 29 points in the second half.

Gators coach Todd Golden figures 12th-ranked Auburn (26-7) will bring a much better effort on Sunday afternoon when the teams meet again, this time for the Southeastern Conference tournament title in Nashville, Tenn.

“We had some things going our way in regards to just the lead-up to the game,” Golden said of the February win over the Tigers. “We played with incredible energy and enthusiasm. … We did a really good job defending them, limiting their opportunities.”

Sixth-seeded Florida (24-10) has done many of those same things over the past three days to reach this point. After being down 18 points in the first half on Saturday in the tournament semifinals against Texas A&M, the Gators got the deficit down to eight by the break, then finished the rally in the second half for a 95-90 victory.

They put five scorers in double figures, getting a career-high 20 points from reserve Denzel Aberdeen. Will Richard added 19 points, Walter Clayton Jr. had 16, and Zyon Pullin and Tyrese Samuel each netted 15.

Florida hit the Aggies from every angle it could, draining 14 3-pointers and also getting strong work inside from Samuel, who got to the free-throw line seven times, making good on five of his attempts from the stripe.

“We did a great job of playing off two feet, not over-penetrating and then looking out,” Golden said.

While the Gators won a high-scoring game, the fourth-seeded Tigers (26-7) grinded out a 73-66 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday for their fifth straight victory. They used their staples — depth, balanced scoring and relentless defense — to eliminate the tourney’s ninth seed.

Five Auburn players hit for at least 10 points, led by Chad Baker-Mazara’s 14, and Auburn limited the Bulldogs to 41.1 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers survived a tough, tempestuous matchup in which the teams were whistled for a combined five technical fouls.

As far as Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was concerned, there were no hard feelings about the way the game was played.

“It was a rock fight because both teams were playing really, really physical,” he said. “That’s Mississippi State’s MO. Our MO is playing hard all the time, not always quite as physical. They beat us on the boards, but we hung in there. We hung in there. I thought that was really important.”

The result might give the Tigers confidence when it comes to playing in tight games, as it was their first win of the season by single digits. They were 0-5 in games decided by less than 10 points prior to Saturday.

And Auburn is preparing for another dogfight on Sunday.

“We’re not just going to walk in there (on Sunday) and get a dub,” Baker-Mazara said. “I feel like we stayed together at the end and stayed composed (on Saturday).”

–Field Level Media

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