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Auburn-Florida Preview

AP - Sports

Florida has been playing better basketball since suffering its first home loss a little more than a week ago.

It'll welcome a team that hasn't won at the O'Connell Center in more than 16 years in its next contest.

The 12th-ranked Gators seek their eighth straight home victory over Auburn when the teams meet in an SEC matchup Tuesday night.

Florida (21-6, 9-3) had its 19-game home winning streak snapped with a 75-70 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 11 - its second straight defeat after falling at No. 1 Kentucky on Feb. 7 - but it bounced back with consecutive road victories.

Erving Walker scored a career-high 31 points to help the Gators to a 98-68 rout of Arkansas on Saturday. They shot 58.3 percent to mark one of their best offensive performances of the season.

Kenny Boynton added 25 points and Bradley Beal scored 21 to be named SEC freshman of the week.

"We knew sooner or later it was going to happen," Walker said of the hot shooting. "We just didn't know when."

It may not have come at a better time, as Florida prepares for its stretch run before closing the season at home against Kentucky on March 4.

"Obviously, it was a perfect storm in a lot of ways because we got to the free-throw line and we shot the ball very, very well," coach Billy Donovan said.

The Gators weren't nearly as good in the last meeting with Auburn, however, shooting 28.3 percent and barely escaping with a 45-40 win Jan. 20, 2011. Though they have won 13 of the last 14 meetings with the Tigers, each of the last five have been decided by single digits.

Auburn, which hasn't won at Florida since a 73-70 victory Feb. 10, 1996, ended a three-game skid with a 65-55 win over Mississippi State on Saturday.

Frankie Sullivan scored 16 points and Kenny Gabriel added 15 for the Tigers (14-12, 4-8).

"(The win) just means that we can play with anybody if we play that hard, physical and tough," Gabriel said. "That's what coach (Tony Barbee) has been trying to get us to do the last couple of games. He's been telling us that we've been playing that way for the first 35 minutes of the game, but then the last five minutes of the game we've been breaking down."

Auburn is 1-10 in road and neutral-site games this season, but Barbee said his team will keep battling despite being well out of the SEC race.

"Every team this time of year is worn down mentally. Every team is worn down physically, no matter if you are a ranked team, on a winning streak, or on a losing streak. Everybody has issues," Barbee said. "No matter what takes place, you have to keep fighting."

The Tigers have lost seven straight and 12 of their last 13 versus the AP Top 25 and haven't beaten a ranked Florida team since a 78-70 win March 10, 2000, over the No. 11 Gators.

Auburn's last win in the series was 61-58 on March 13, 2009, in the SEC tournament.

Florida hopes to have guard Mike Rosario, who has missed the last three games with a hip pointer. Donovan said Rosario should be available, though he remains a game-time decision.

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