No. 12 Auburn goes wire-to-wire to beat Florida 86-67 for SEC Tournament title

No. 12 Auburn Dominates Florida 86-67 to Clinch SEC Tournament Championship

In Nashville, Tennessee, Johni Broome shone brightly, scoring 19 points and securing 11 rebounds, leading Auburn to victory in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. This win marked Auburn’s third championship in this prestigious tournament, overcoming Florida with a score of 86-67. However, the triumph was overshadowed by a distressing injury to Florida’s center, Micah Handlogten.

Auburn, holding the 12th spot, showcased resilience and skill, steering clear of the upsets that had eliminated the top three seeds in the SEC’s quarterfinals. As the highest seed left, Auburn dominated the final, never once losing the lead. This victory added to their previous titles from 1985 and 2019, marking a second win under the guidance of coach Bruce Pearl.

Denver Jones and Chad Baker-Mazara contributed significantly to Auburn’s success, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively. Their performance, along with Broome’s, earned them a standing ovation as they left the court with two minutes remaining.

The Florida Gators, seeded sixth, faced their fourth game in as many days, aiming for their fifth SEC Tournament title and first since 2014. Unfortunately, their efforts were marred early on by Handlogten’s injury, leading to his exit on a stretcher due to a broken lower left leg within the game’s first three minutes.

Zyon Pullin led the Gators with 15 points, supported by Walter Clayton Jr. with 13 points, Tyrese Samuel with 12, and Thomas Haugh with 11. Despite trailing by as much as 12 points, Florida narrowed the gap to 38-30 by halftime and continued to fight, closing in at 45-44 following a Clayton 3-pointer with 17 minutes left.

However, Auburn consistently countered Florida’s attempts to take the lead. The game was a tactical battle between Pearl and his former assistant, now Florida coach, Todd Golden. Pearl celebrated his 200th career win at Auburn, a testament to his and the team’s enduring excellence.

Auburn’s offensive prowess was on full display, with a quick succession of seven points highlighted by a dynamic dunk from Jones. The team extended its lead to 21 points towards the end, with fans standing in anticipation of the celebration.

The game also saw a promising performance from Florida’s freshman Alex Condon, who stepped in after Handlogten’s injury, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds. Auburn avenged their previous loss to the Gators and demonstrated remarkable shooting accuracy, especially in the second half.

The injury to Handlogten cast a somber mood over the Bridgestone Arena, with the crowd going silent as he was attended to on the court. The incident was a stark reminder of the physical risks athletes face.

Looking ahead, Auburn carries a six-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament, ready to build on their success and face new challenges.