AUBURN, Ala. – It was sixty-one years ago. The defending national champions, Kentucky ventured into Auburn Sports Arena – the original, o 2,500-seat building that burned down in 1996 due to a football tailgate – and massacred the Tigers 88-48 on Jan. 30, 1952.
Sixty-one years later, through lean years and all, Auburn had never again subjected its own fans to the wrong side of a 30-point blowout. Until Saturday.
Auburn basketball hit a new low when No. 7 Florida barely broke a sweat in an 83-52 romp, equaling the Tigers’ most lopsided loss under third-year coach Tony Barbee and representing Auburn’s largest home defeat in more than six decades.
The Tigers trailed 47-22 at halftime.
It’s another black mark in a bad season getting worse – Auburn (9-16, 3-9 SEC) has lost nine of ten.
“It’s getting to a point where it’s getting redundant and embarrassing after every game,” senior captain Frankie Sullivan said. “(We’re) a long ways right now, a long way away (from the SEC’s elite.) I think you get to a point where you just have to fight and have pride.”
Gators guard Mike Rosario’s season-high 22 points led the collective chomp, but he had more than enough accomplices. Florida (21-3, 11-1) rained 15 three-pointers on the Tigers – its most in 13 months – and magnified by Michael Frazier’s sizzling 6-for-7 off the bench.
“Once it gets going for them,” Sullivan said, “it’s hard to get them to stop.”
Meanwhile, Auburn junior guard Chris Denson stayed right in line with his recent contributions (13 points, 5-8 FG in 25 minutes) and freshman guard Jordan Price awoke from his slumber with 12 points off the bench. The Tigers’ bench outscored its starters 27-25 as younger players continue to see more court time.
Florida’s just that good. There’s a reason the seventh-ranked Gators have destroyed its SEC foes by an average margin of 23 points, and there’s a reason a decent portion of the 8,953 orange-and-blue-clad fans were cheering for the visitors.
Based on the post-game commentary and demeanor of head coach Tony Barbee, the Tigers seemed resigned to their fate before and during the game, not just after.
“We just played one of the best teams in the country. That’s my thoughts,” Barbee said. “I was disappointed in the overall defensive intensity and attention to detail. They’ve got a veteran group that has been doing it together for a couple of years, so you see why they play with such chemistry on offense and defense.”
Sullivan, scoring eight points in his second straight game as a reserve, didn’t let his temper flare, but he was disappointed.
“I just hate losing, that’s it,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think that’s in my nature, or my culture, to lose like that.”
The defeat assures Auburn will fall to its third straight regular season with a losing record under Barbee, who won 66 percent of his games the previous three years at UTEP.
On Barbee’s watch, the Tigers’ record against opponents rated in the NCAA’s top 150 RPI is now 13-43. Auburn is outside the top 200 this season, with a 12-31 SEC record from 2011 to the present.
“It’s no secret that this was a severe rebuilding job when I took it,” Barbee said. “It’s not an overnight fix. It is what it is. We have to continue to build and grow.”
Auburn fans began streaming out of Auburn Arena as early as the 25-point halftime deficit, their earliest exodus this season.
Asked how much patience the fan base should have, Barbee, whose contract lasts for this and the next four seasons, responded, “That’s not for me to decide.”
- Auburn is now 7-7 at Auburn Arena this year, including 2-4 in SEC play. That’s compared to a home mark of 14-3 overall, and 5-3 league, last season.
- Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin handed out 10 assists, tying a season high. Auburn’s entire team had nine assists on 19 baskets, and the Tigers committed ten turnovers in the first half to trail 47-22.
- Texas A&M (15-9, 5-6 entering Saturday) visits Auburn Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, with the Tigers’ final game of a three-game homestand available to home viewers on ESPN3.com.