Auburn guard Jared Harper was isolated on the upper left side of the three-point line with Jalen Hudson guarding him.
Forward Keyontae Johnson had the ball in the corner with less than 10 seconds to play. The N…
Hudson gave him enough space to take a step forward and shoot. Harper gave Auburn a 64-60 lead with 12 seconds left.
Hudson made a quick layup to put Florida down by two with 7.5 seconds, forcing UF to have to foul Harper. He made just one free throw, giving the Gators a chance to tie the game.
Then, controversy ensued.
Forward Keyontae Johnson passed the ball to guard Andrew Nembhard off the inbounds, who was swamped by three Auburn players just past half court. It looked as if he got hit during his desperate shot attempt, but the referees didn’t call a foul. Nembhard’s shot airballed, ending Florida’s chances at moving on in the SEC Tournament.
The Tigers defeated the Gators 65-62 in Nashville, Tennessee, to advance to the finals of the tournament behind Harper’s game-high 20 points. UF will wait to see if it makes the NCAA Tournament when the brackets are released on Sunday.
Hudson dropped 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while center Kevarrius Hayes picked up a double-double off 16 points and 12 rebounds. Guards KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke had nine and eight points, respectively.
Auburn guard Bryce Brown notched 11 points, all of which came in the second half, and forward Chuma Okeke had nine.
It was close the entire game. No team lead by more than nine points, and both the Gators and the Tigers had an answer for just about every run.
Florida went on a 17-5 run that ended at the 10:33 mark of the first half to jump ahead 19-10. Auburn responded with four consecutive three-pointers -- one from guard J’Von McCormick and three from Harper -- to take a three-point advantage.
UF scored 15 more points to close the half off two dunks from Hayes and threes from forward Keyontae Johnson and Allen, but the Tigers snuck in a couple of three-pointers to make the game 34-30.
Florida was sloppy with the ball in the first half, turning it over six times compared to its opponent’s two. That play transitioned into the second, where UF tacked on 13 more turnovers.
It allowed the Tigers to take more shots in the game (56 to UF’s 38) and have more chances to stay in control.
The second half showed that was the case. Auburn nailed six threes in the second half -- 13 total -- to keep Florida behind.
After trading baskets to open the frame, the Tigers took the lead off back-to-back three-pointers from Okeke and Samir Doughty with 13:22 left. Hudson hit all three of his free throws at the 12:46 mark to tie the game at 47-all.
Auburn extended its lead to eight with 5:59 left thanks to a pair of threes from Brown and layups from McCormick and forward Horace Spencer. The Gators cut the lead to one off a Kevarrius Hayes dunk with a 1:11 left, but Harper’s three-pointer at the end put the Tigers up by four with 12 seconds left.
Moments later came the controversial play, and Florida was eliminated from the SEC Tournament. UF will learn its postseason fate on Sunday during the NCAA Tournament selection show.
Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].