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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — No. 12 Auburn asked its fans to come to Music City and support their Tigers in the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.

Fans answered.

And the Tigers did their part on the court.

Johni Broome scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Auburn won its third SEC Tournament title by beating Florida 86-67 on Sunday in a game marred by a gruesome injury to Gators center Micah Handlogten.

“All of the Auburn family got in their cars," coach Bruce Pearl said. "They drove up north from north Alabama, central Alabama, south Alabama.”

The Tigers (27-7) avoided the upset bug that took out the SEC's top three seeds in Friday's quarterfinals, leaving them as the highest seed still standing. They never trailed in the final, adding titles to those won in 1985 and 2019 and earning a second under Pearl.

“It just makes it more special,” said Broome, who was named the tournament MVP. “I wanted it for myself, but I wanted to see the smiles on my teammates’ faces and my coaches' faces because we worked so hard to be here.”

Denver Jones scored 11 points for Auburn, which had a double bye in the tournament as the fourth seed. Chad Baker-Mazara added 10 before going to the bench along with Broome and getting a standing ovation with two minutes left.

The sixth-seeded Gators (24-11) were playing their fourth game in as many days and trying to win the program's fifth SEC Tournament title and first since 2014. But they lost Handlogten, who was taken off the court on a stretcher, to a broken lower left leg within the first three minutes.

“That’s a super fluky injury, you know, that you don’t see very often in this game," Florida coach Todd Golden said.

The arena briefly went silent, with players from both teams returning to their benches to pray.

"That hurts their depth even more,” Pearl said of Florida losing Handlogten.

Danielle Handlogten posted on social media later Sunday that her son was “out of surgery and is expected to have a full recovery,” and sent thanks “for the love and support of the Herd family.”

Zyon Pullin led the Gators with 15 points. Walter Clayton Jr. added 13, Tyrese Samuel had 12 and Thomas Haugh 11.

The Gators tried to rally to earn the title and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth. They trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half before pulling to within 38-30 at halftime.

Florida got to within 45-44 with 17 minutes left on a Clayton 3-pointer.

Auburn answered each spurt with Pearl coaching against his former assistant in Golden. Pearl notched his 200th career win at Auburn and became the first coach in program history to win this tourney twice.

The Tigers' offensive firepower showed when they scored seven straight points within 55 seconds, capped by a high-flying dunk from Jones with 14:08 to go. Auburn led by as many as 21.

“They just beat us, and I think that’s OK," Golden said. "It happens. You know we’ll kind of dust ourselves off and get back up and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida: Freshman Alex Condon replaced Handlogten after his injury. He scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds. ... The Gators went 1 of 13 from 3-point range, possibly showing the effects of a fourth game in as many days.

Auburn: The Tigers got revenge for their biggest loss this season. They fell to the Gators 81-65 in Gainesville on Feb. 10 and were coming off their only win by single digits, a 73-66 semifinal victory over Mississippi State. ... They shot 64.3% (18 of 28) in the second half.

HORRIFIC INJURY

Play stopped with Handlogten down with 17:39 left in the first half. Handlogten had two rebounds and was trying to come down with a third when he landed awkwardly on his left foot. He immediately went down in pain and rolled onto his side, putting his hands to his face.

The sound of bone apparently breaking could be heard on the televised broadcast, and blood immediately was visible on the back of Handlogten's calf.

Play had continued as Aden Holloway took a pass for a layup on the other end for Auburn. Play then stopped as trainers rushed out to Handlogten, with his parents coming down to be by his side.

UP NEXT

Auburn will take a six-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament.

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