Auburn Captures SEC Crown with Dominating Win Over Florida

Ken Cross

March 20, 2024 at 12:30 am.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 7 Auburn Tigers used 19 points and 11 rebounds from Johni Broome as they won their second SEC Tournament title in the last five years with an 86-67 decision over Florida.

The Tigers used a 19-8 run over the first seven minutes of the second half to build a 57-46 lead. Denver Jones had 11 points and Chad Baker-Mazara recorded 10 to lead Auburn, which shot 51 percent from the floor.

“Basketball is a game of runs, but it’s how you respond,” said SEC Tournament MVP John Broome. “You have to take the punches, but you also have to give some back.”

The Auburn defense was a prime component in wins over South Carolina and Mississippi State and it held the Gators to 36 percent from the field. Florida made only 1-of-13 three-point attempts as the Gators average eight makes per game and attempt 23 three-pointers per outing.

In comparison, Florida was 14-of-26 from the triplicate in its 95-90 win over Texas A&M in the conference semifinals on Saturday.

“I think part of it was the four games in four days,” explained Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “The teams they played against to get to the championship game … I’m sure fatigue was a factor.”

The balance of Auburn’s depth and their positive mindset at every position, given the many situations on a basketball court in a 40-minute game, were superlatives in cutting the nets in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

“Winning the championship this year means even more because the league is so good,” commented Pearl. “I told my son, we won a few of these. I think this one is the most special. Maybe because it’s my 10th year here at Auburn or the bond this team had. I wanted it really badly for these guys or maybe because the league was this good.”

The Tigers started the game by taking a 16-8 lead as they stretched that to 12 points when Chad Baker-Mazara and KD Johnson made back-to-back free throws.

Gators guard Walter Clayton, Jr., led Florida with six points out of halftime as Florida cut the Tigers’ lead to 45-44 with 17:00 to play in the game.

From there, Denver Jones scored nine of Auburn’s next 16 points as the Tigers led 60-48 and led by as many as 21 before they took the 86-67 win.

“We are playing for the coach, BP, we have, the staff we have, the players that we have, the bonding we have, It just makes it more special,” said Broome.

Meanwhile, Golden shared his thoughts on his team and their appearance in the SEC Final as well.

“For us to get to this SEC Championship Game this year and knock off the teams we did, still incredibly proud of our team,” Golden said. “I am excited to get back on track for the tournament next week.”

Zyon Pullin led the Gators with 15 points, while Clayton managed 13.


Handlogten Injured Early: Florida center Micah Handlogten was injured early as he fractured his lower left leg, just 2:20 into the game.

Florida players and coaches show support to Micah Handlogten (3) as he is taken off the court after breaking his ankle (Photo: The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports)

He was taken off the court on a stretcher as he came down with little balance and fell to the ground.

Handlogten’s mother noted on Monday that he had successful surgery and he is expecting a full recovery.

“The biggest part is Micah has good relationships with his teammates,” said Golden. “Those guys love him. He’s an incredible teammate.”


The Cook in Auburn’s Kitchen: The closeness that this team has, along with Pearl and his staff letting these kids be themselves on the court. Those are two of the parts of a solid basketball soufflé.

Chad Baker-Mazara is an example of this as his hustle and progressiveness on both ends of the floor set the tone for Auburn, many nights, on both ends of the hardwood.

Baker-Mazara was also on the All-Tournament team along with Broom, as he can set the tone with his play and his enthusiasm. Sunday, he scored his 10 points in 21 minutes while his length on the defensive end and his hustle gave the Tigers that extra-ingredient in the Auburn kitchen.

“There’s four days of playing and I feel like at that point when they made their run, I feel like the guys that came in just turned it up a whole different notch,” commented Baker-Mazara. “We executed, stayed calm and stayed composed.”

Auburn guard Chad Baker-Mazara speaking with his family via FaceTime after being named to the All-SEC Tournament Team (Photo: Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK)

The 6-7 native of Santo Domingo has been an imperial addition to Pearl’s rotation.  Wonderfully as soon as the game was over, he took his iPhone and did FaceTime with his family.

Along with his length, his athleticism and awesome attitude make Baker-Mazara a tough cover and a defensive stopper.

“I feel like when you have a 10-man team, really 11, and when you have a deep team, we all bring different types of things to the table,” said Baker-Mazara.


BP vs. Todd: Florida head coach Todd Golden was at Auburn on Coach Bruce Pearl’s staff in Pearl’s first two seasons with the Tigers.

Golden and Pearl met before and after the game to wish each other well.

“Before the game, Coach Golden came to my locker room,” stated Pearl. “We had a little exchange. That rarely happens before a basketball game because sometimes that’s sacred space. But Todd knew he could come in and hug each other and congratulate each other on being in the game.”

The two met at half-court and chatted after the game. With Coach Golden’s work on Coach Pearl’s staff, there is a ton of humility and respect among the two men who met for the SEC championship.


What’s Next? Auburn takes the longest trip from campus any NCAA Tournament team as it descends on Spokane, Wash. while Florida sets its footing in Indianapolis.

The Tigers play 2,400 miles from campus which is the longest trip for any of the 68 NCAA Tournament entrants. Yale is the 4-seed Tigers first game on Thursday. Win that and they gain an opponent from the (5) San Diego State vs. (12) UAB game.

Win those two and it’s a potential matchup with UConn in its backyard in Boston. The home of the Celtics is also where Pearl grew up.

The Gators roll into Indianapolis with a matchup against Colorado or Boise State, who compete in a play-in game. Win that one, and it’s a likely game against Marquette, as the Golden Eagles open with Western Kentucky.

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