Senior leadership: Allen’s recent rebirth key for Gators

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Florida senior guard KeVaughn Allen (5) goes up for the block on Texas A&M guard Wendell Mitchell in the second half Tuesday at Exatech Arena. Allen scored a season-high 31 points to help the Gators beat the Aggies 81-72. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

Perhaps it was the impending finale to his collegiate career, or perhaps it was simply an attempt to lift the Gators out of dire straits.

Either way, KeVaughn Allen reminded the Florida faithful, and his head coach, of what he can do when he’s feeling it.

Allen provided 31 points Tuesday night — 17 coming in the second half — as the Gators turned a 13-point deficit at halftime into a nine-point win over visiting Texas A&M.

Although Allen has turned in double-digit scoring performances in UF’s previous eight games — the longest streak in his Florida career — Gators coach Mike White has noticed a recent change — or reversion — in the senior shooting guard just within the past week.

“Two games in a row where he’s been aggressive and confident. ‘Give me the ball,’ playing with all he’s got. Everyone in this room knows he’s capable of doing that,” White said. “All these guys, they go through ups and downs. And when you’ve had as much early success as he’s had, he’s always kind of been under the microscope. Nice seeing him have fun out there, making big plays and feeling good about himself and having fun.”

It marked the first time all season a UF player has scored 20 or more points in a game, although Allen wasn’t the only one to break the mark against the Aggies. Freshman Noah Locke provided 27 points, and the Gators would finish the game having made 18 shots from beyond the arc, with 15 of them coming from UF’s sharp-shooting duo of Allen and Locke. The two set a program record for most 3-point baskets made by two players with 15 against the Aggies, in turn giving many a glimpse of the Allen of old and his successor.

But the expectations with Locke aren’t nearly as high as they are with Allen, whose last 30-point game came as a sophomore in UF’s 84-83 win over Wisconsin on March 26, 2017, in the Elite Eight.

“I just noticed that I was hitting shots early in the game. So why not shoot it? I just shot it,” Allen said. “Just playing aggressive and knowing that the team needs me to be aggressive, whether I’m hitting shots or I’m not. But I feel I need to be aggressive to help this team win.”

Call it a revelation several years in the making or not, but the message hasn’t changed when it comes to coaching Allen: seize opportunities rather than idle along. Embracing the message, however, has been a process.

“That’s something new to me,” Allen admitted. “I feel like I’m just taking a step as a person. Not only as a basketball player, but I feel like I’m just taking the extra step in life.”

After a disappointing junior campaign, Allen’s game more closely resembles that of his underclassmen years, where he seemingly shot the ball confidently and efficiently.

And defensively, Allen has taken his game to another level this season as his 1.6 steals per game ranks fifth in the SEC. His presence on both ends of the court has made him a must-play, and his noticeable absence late in Florida’s 78-67 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 12 left many bewildered and in need of an explanation.

As Allen tells it, the loss to Tennessee less than two weeks prior may explain the apparent change in his on-court demeanor.

“Since then, I feel like I’ve gotten better, and you just don’t get better overnight,” Allen said. “I think that extra step is trying to get better and try and work with the team.”

Now, sitting at .500 in the SEC with a onerous conference slate remaining, the Gators need Allen to keep taking steps — and shots.

“However he learns, it’s nice that he’s taken it on himself, put us on his shoulders a little bit,” White said of Allen. “He’s grown, he’s a senior now. He’s been through a lot.”


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What: SEC/Big 12 Challenge

Who: Florida vs. TCU

When: Noon Saturday

TV: ESPN2

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10 COMMENTS

  1. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 2 years since Allen’s last 30 point (or more) performance (March 26, 2017, in the Elite Eight). So now if Allen gets ”extra attention” from the other teams, he can wisely and quickly dish to the open guy. And so the other guys are going to have to get open, especially when they see Allen getting doubled teamed. It is going to take everyone, not just Allen, to get through this ”gauntlet of tough games” successfully. Go Gators! Just win!

  2. Lets pace ourselves and keep our enthusiasm tempered shall we? Allen had a great game against A&M, an awful team with little bench depth that just ran out of gas and legs in the second half.

    I’m not trying to take away from a great effort by Allen, but lets also realize we are still a team with a number of flaws that we have to overcome to be successful, and considering our personnel this year, we are pretty much an average team this year.

    That said, this team will only go as far as it’s coaching.

    • T-o-d-d…troll-of-da-day. If not…you sure sound like one in that post, running the team down Let’s be a little less negative…”shall we?” The Gators have been in a lot of close games this year against a number of top-tier teams and definitely looked better than “average” in those contests even though in every game they have to overcome shortages in the front court. They have also played one of the toughest slates of competition and have a winning record. They have the best defense in the SEC which alone means they are not an average team.

      • Agreed prairiegator…the majority of the loses this team has gotten, with the definite exception of the FSU where they were pretty much handled, were winnable games that were essentially missing what Allen has begun to bring to the table…the on-the-court, hang-with-me senior leadership. It had to be either him or Hudson, and unfortunately Jalen just isn’t playing to that role. Hayes has shown the constant motor and senior lead by example, but he isn’t the go to guy that Allen is. Allen is the one you want the ball to get to at the end of games to help finish off the last few minutes of a lead, and definitely the one you want the ball in his hands when it’s to the point that the other team has to foul to get the ball back. He doesn’t have to score 30 a night, but the confidence he shows in his play is what will raise the level of the others, especially now that the underclasssmen are going to be putting up major minutes.

  3. That would be great. Until he becomes more of a offensive threat it most likley won’t happen but we sure need him to which would open up the floor and create more opportunities for others like you were saying. There’s plenty of time left for him to do this!