SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL: FLORIDA 88, ARKANSAS 73:

KeVaughn's back: North Little Rock product busts slump, buries Hogs

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018
Florida guard KeVaughn Allen (5) keeps the ball away from an Arkansas defender during an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday Jan. 17, 2018. Florida won, 88-73. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP)
Florida guard KeVaughn Allen (5) keeps the ball away from an Arkansas defender during an NCAA college basketball game in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday Jan. 17, 2018. Florida won, 88-73. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

— When KeVaughn Allen swished a three-pointer barely two minutes into Wednesday night's game, Florida's fans cheered as if he'd hit a game-winning shot.

The fans knew Allen had been mired in a shooting slump.

Not anymore.

Allen, a junior guard from North Little Rock, broke out in a big way against his home state Arkansas Razorbacks as he scored a season-high 28 points to lead the Gators to an 88-73 victory before an announced crowd of 9,929 at the O'Connell Center.

The Gators (13-5, 5-1 SEC) extended their winning streak to eight games against the Razorbacks (12-6, 2-4), beating the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville at home for the 13th consecutive time.

Allen hit 8 of 12 shots, including 6 of 7 three-pointers, and 6 of 6 free throws in 34 minutes.

"KeVaughn was great, wasn't he?" Florida Coach Mike White said. "Wow, did he play a great game. He needed it and we needed it. That's KeVaughn Allen."

Allen, a preseason first-team All-SEC pick after averaging 14.0 points as a sophomore, came into Wednesday's game having shot 30.7 percent from the field (12 of 29) and 26.1 percent on three-pointers (6 of 23) in the previous six games.

"I just wanted to stay aggressive and keep shooting no matter what happens," Allen said. "I think that first three I hit kind of got me going. It put me in good rhythm, and my teammates did a good job of finding me."

Allen's 20 points in the first half -- when the Gators took control -- were more than the 17 combined he had in the previous four games, including 2 at Missouri and 3 at Ole Mis.

"It's good to have KeVaughn back," Florida senior guard Egor Koulechov said. "We've talked to him a lot to try to encourage him, and we're really happy to see him putting up those numbers.

"He had confidence shooting the ball. He wasn't passing up open looks. Well, he still passed up a couple tonight, but it's good to see him back shooting."

Allen's previous scoring high this season was 23 points in Florida's 111-105 overtime victory against Gonzaga on Nov. 24. His career high was 35 points against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament last season.

"KeVaughn came out and shot lights out," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "You know he's capable, and he made some tough shots. Sometimes when you're playing your home state team, you have a little bit more focus."

"But it wasn't just about KeVaughn. I thought their other guys played well for them, too."

Gators junior guard Jalen Hudson had 21 points and 9 rebounds off the bench, and Koulechov had 12 points.

Senior guard Jaylen Barford led Arkansas with a career-high 28 points. Freshman forward Daniel Gafford had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Razorbacks senior guard Daryl Macon added 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.

Florida led by as many as 18 points in the first half, 45-27, when Allen hit two free throws at the 2:54 mark.

The Razorbacks pulled within 62-53 on C.J. Jones' three-pointer with 10:51 left, but Allen answered with a three-pointer to make it 65-53.

Arkansas didn't pull closer than 10 points the rest of the game, and the Gators pushed their lead to as many as 21 points at 82-61 on Hudson's three-pointer with 4:01 left.

"First and foremost, defensively we didn't get the job done," Anderson said.

Florida outscored Arkansas 22-4 over an 8:54 span, including 11 points from Allen, to move ahead 35-19 with 7:53 left in the first half.

"I think we missed some key free throws, and we didn't punch back when they were making shots," Barford said. "Our defense was kind of off balance a little bit."

Arkansas was 0 of 4 on free throws during the Gators' run -- Darious Hall and Arlando Cook both went 0 of 2 -- and finished 6 of 15.

The Gators shot 48.3 percent from the field (28 of 58), but 52 percent on three-pointers (13 of 25).

"It's not good defense," Anderson said. "That's what that is. They got a lot of those in transition.

"I just thought we played defense sometimes on our heels."

Allen hit 6 of 9 shots, including 4 of 5 three-pointers, in the decisive first half.

"He came out locked in to shoot the ball, I guess," Barford said. "He was just scoring left and right.

"We were playing good defense on him some possessions, but he just shot the ball well."

Florida's student section had a sign that read "Shooters Shoot."

Allen said he saw the sign in pregame warmups.

"I figured it was for me," he said. "When I saw that, it was funny to me."

The fun continued for Allen once the game started.

"KeVaughn hit a couple of hard ones that for a lot of people weren't great shots, but for him are good shots because he's a tough shot-maker," White said. "When he's really aggressive, heck, I think every one of them is going in. I like to see him like that, and his teammates do as well. "

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 12-6, 2-4 SEC; Florida 13-5, 5-1 STARS Florida junior guards KeVaughn Allen (28 points, 4 rebounds) and Jalen Hudson (21 points, 9 rebounds). Arkansas senior guard Jaylen Barford (28 points) TURNING POINT The Gators outscored the Razorbacks 22-4 over an 8:54 span, including 11 points from Allen, to move ahead 35-19 with 7:53 left in the first half. KEY STAT Florida hit 13 of 25 three-pointers. UP NEXT Arkansas plays Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Sports on 01/18/2018

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