Jabari Smith, No. 2 Auburn Upset by Unranked Florida in SEC Showdown

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 19, 2022

Auburn guard K.D. Johnson (0) tries to shoot around Florida guard Niels Lane (44) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Youngblood)
AP Photo/Alan Youngblood

Saturday started off on quite the high note for the Auburn Tigers men's basketball team when it was named one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA selection committee's bracket preview.

That feeling didn't last long.

The Florida Gators earned a massive win for their NCAA tournament chances with a 63-62 victory over the Tigers in Saturday's SEC showdown. Tyree Appleby (26 points) and Colin Castleton (19 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two steals) led the way for Florida, while 28 points and seven boards from Jabari Smith weren't enough for Auburn on the road.

Auburn had an opportunity to win on the final possession after a frantic finish but didn't even get a shot off before throwing the ball away.

It appeared as if Florida was going to cruise to victory after much of the game was back-and-forth when Appleby's three-pointer extended the advantage to eight with just more than two minutes remaining.

However, the Gators fouled Smith on a three-pointer, turned the ball over multiple times and took ill-advised shots as the Tigers came clawing back.

A final Florida turnover on an inbounds pass in the last 10 seconds with a one-point lead looked to be disastrous, but Auburn was unable to generate a shot on the last possession.

While the Gators still need to do more work to ensure themselves a spot in the Big Dance, this was a major resume-booster. They now have quality wins over Ohio State and Auburn with chances to add more down the stretch of the regular season against Arkansas and Kentucky.

As for Auburn, a No. 1 seed is still very much on the table.

This was just the team's third loss of the season, although two of them have come in the past four games. Auburn is also still a game ahead of Kentucky in the loss column in the SEC standings and won the only head-to-head game between the teams this season.

All of the Tigers' goals are still ahead of them, but Saturday was not the performance they were looking for after receiving some validation from the NCAA selection committee.