March 16, 2019 / 7:29 PM / 5 months ago

Harper scores 20 as No. 22 Auburn tips Florida in SEC semis

EditorsNote: Update 2: rewords ninth graf, fixes to “11 second-half points” in 12th graf; Update 3: Fixes error in third graf

Mar 16, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl against the Florida Gators during the first half of the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Jared Harper connected on a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 12.2 seconds left — his only field goal of the second half — and scored a team-high 20 points to lift No. 22 Auburn to a 65-62 victory over Florida on Saturday to advance to the finals of Southeastern Conference tournament at Nashville, Tenn.

Auburn (25-9) will play No. 8 Tennessee in the final Sunday at the Bridgestone Arena. The Volunteers edged No. 4 Kentucky 82-78 later Saturday.

With the Gators trailing 64-60, Florida guard Jalen Hudson dribbled the length of the court for a layup with seven seconds remaining to cut the Auburn lead to two.

Harper took the inbounds pass and was fouled with 6.2 seconds remaining, and he made the first of two free throws to extend the Auburn lead to 65-62.

After Harper missed his second foul shot, Florida freshman guard Andrew Nembhard took an outlet pass and tried to throw up a 3-pointer from 30 feet in the middle of three Auburn defenders.

Nembhard appeared to draw contact, but his shot fell far short as the game ended.

Florida (19-15) led 41-37 with 15:27 left, but Auburn went on a 17-6 run to take a seven-point lead with 8:21 remaining.

Chuma Okeke and Samir Doughty hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Auburn the lead, 47-44.

After Florida tied it at 47, the Tigers ran off another 7-0 spurt to take control. Bryce Brown capped the surge with a 3-pointer.

The Gators went scoreless for 6:22, finally getting a pair of free throws by Kevarrius Hayes to cut the deficit to 54-49 with 6:24 left. Florida went nearly eight minutes in the second half without a field goal.

After committing just two turnovers in the final 15 minutes of the first half, Florida self-destructed by turning the ball over 13 times in the second half.

Brown, who missed all five of his shots in the first half, had 11 second-half points for Auburn.

Florida, which lost despite shooting 60.5 percent from the floor for the game, was led by Hudson and Hayes with 16 points each.

Slideshow (95 Images)

Florida was 8 of 9 from the field while bolting to a 19-10 lead in the first 10 minutes, but Auburn finally got its perimeter shooting going, making four consecutive 3-pointers, three by Harper and one by J’Von McCormick, for a 12-0 run to take a 22-19 lead.

The Gators shot 70 percent from the field (14 of 20) in the first half but still led only 34-30. Auburn stayed within striking distance because of Harper’s sharp-shooting. The guard made 4 of 5 from long range to lead all scorers with 16 first-half points.

—Field Level Media

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