The Florida Gators were simply dominant on Saturday against the Auburn Tigers. The game was never even close as the Gators coasted to an 81-65 victory in front of their home crowd in Gainesville. Following the upset win over No. 12 Auburn, Florida star Riley Kugel spoke with the SEC Network broadcast team.
The Gators were determined to defend their home court. They did so with some stingy defense, forcing 15 turnovers and holding Auburn to just 17.6% (3 of 17) shooting from beyond-the-arc. What was the mindset of the Florida players heading into Saturday’s showdown with a Top-15 opponent?
“That we can’t just let them come into our gym and just let them take what belongs to us. We just knew we had to come out fighting at first and stay on their necks the whole game,” Kugel said.
The home crowd for the Gators played a crucial role in the upset win on Saturday. What kind of influence did the crowd have on the team going into the game?
“Just stay ready. Everybody knows their role. And everybody in our rotation knows that when they come in they’ve gotta give it all they got. 110 percent and we’re just ready to work every time we’re out there,” the star guard said.
He showed great appreciation for the energy the fans brought on Saturday. “Yeah, I mean, it’s just amazing playing in this gym in the O-Dome. The Exactech Arena. You can just see everybody. The fans, everybody showed out. It’s just amazing playing here. I’m blessed to be here. My team’s blessed to be here. And we’re just gonna keep it rolling,” Kugel said.
The Gators used a 9-0 run out of the gates to open up the lead, then never looked back. The team’s guards were electric in the win, while the big men were tasked with slowing down Tigers star Johni Broome inside.
Florida was coming off a week-long break, while Auburn played during the middle of the week. And it was pretty clear the Gators had an edge in overall energy pretty early, something boosted by a raucous home crowd and sustained by that crowd’s energy.
The Gators won a physical contest, too, with a 43-41 edge in rebounding and a respectable 40-38 deficit in points in the paint.
Florida got a big-time performance from Riley Kugel
Florida had scoring outbursts from three of their guards. Sophomore Riley Kugel led the way with 22 points and four rebounds, while Walter Clayton Jr. had 20 points and Zyon Pullin finished with 19 points.
Florida’s next game will be Tuesday night at home against LSU, while Auburn’s next contest will be on Wednesday against No. 15 South Carolina. South Carolina is currently on a seven-game winning streak and shares the lead in the SEC standings.
On3’s Thomas Goldkamp also contributed to this article.