There was a time when Florida sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen would have thought twice about launching big shots with the game on the line.
Early in his freshman season, the 6-foot-2 Allen's play on the court mirrored his shy-by-nature demeanor off the court.
With some prodding from teammates and coaches, Allen has emerged from a shell to become a more assertive scorer. The Gators will look to Allen's continued shot-making ability tonight at Alabama.
Allen earned SEC player of the week honors for the first time in his career Monday after averaging 18.5 points, five rebounds and three steals in UF's wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee last week. Against the Vols, Allen scored a season-high 23 points and made all five of his second-half shots, including four from 3-point range.
“He's gotten more comfortable with being assertive and becoming a go-to guy,” Florida coach Mike White said. “He's such an unselfish kid we did have to prod him for awhile. Who knows if he'll have times where he'll revert into that. Being who he is winning is most important. He doesn't understand sometimes how good a scorer he is. But I think he understands it more than a year ago.”
Allen credited his coach for his change in mindset.
"I think me just by listening to my coach, Coach White, just telling me to shoot the ball with confidence,” Allen said. “When I got an open shot, just shoot it and just have confidence that you'll knock it down."
Allen's biggest improvement this season has come shooting from the perimeter. After shooting 31.5 percent from 3-point range as a freshman, Allen is shooting 42.7 percent (35-82) from beyond the arc this season. He's made 18 of his last 29 3-point attempts, the best shooting stretch of his career.
But even on nights when shots aren't falling early, Allen said his teammates have continued to encourage him.
"It means a lot,” Allen said. “Nights when I'm not on, you know, I'm just missing. And they just come up to me and try to encourage me to shoot, you know, just continue to shoot and eventually that it'll fall.”
Individual accolades don't consume Allen. Case in point, earlier Monday afternoon, when Allen received a text from White congratulating him on earning SEC player of the week honors, he wasn't even sure what it meant. Allen said it took a few more texts from family and friends back in North Little Rock, Arkansas to realize it was something significant.
Allen had made strides in other areas of his game as well. His 21 steals are third on the team (behind Chris Chiozza's 22 and Kasey Hill's 26) and he has demonstrated the ability to handle the ball at the point in a pinch behind Hill and Chiozza.
“His teammates have done a really good job with him, too, urging him to be aggressive and be the guy that looks for his shot as much as anyone on our team, looking for him also and getting him the basketball,” White said. “He's really playing well as of late and we certainly hope that continues. He's a great young man and he's a pleasure to coach every day.”
Gators move up in poll
Florida moved up one spot to No. 23 in this week's AP Top 25.
The Gators have won five straight, matching their season-high win streak. Florida won its first fives of the season before falling 77-72 to No. 5 Gonzaga.
While Florida has been winning of late by scoring points off turnovers, White said he'd like to see his team play better in halfcourt offensive sets.
“When defenses are really set against us how do we respond, what do we go to, how can we become better executing in the halfcourt? That's definitely a concern,” White said. “We've been really good in transition of course, especially lately. Been shooting the ball better as we talked about earlier, we've been really good on the offensive glass. I like our decision making, our assist to turnover ratio are all pretty good.”
G;KeVaughn Allen;6-2;So.;14.7 ppg;2.6 rpg
G;Kasey Hill;6-1; Sr.;9.1 ppg;5.0 apg
F;Devin Robinson;6-8; Jr.;12.1 ppg;5.3 rpg
F;Justin Leon;6-8; RSr.;7.2 ppg;3.4 rpg
C;Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; So.;5.4 ppg;3.9 rpg
G;Dazon Ingram;6-5; RFr.;9.9 ppg;5.3 rpg
G;Avery Johnson Jr.;5-11;So.;7.4 ppg;1.6 rpg
F;Riley Norris;6-7; Jr.;7.4 ppg;3.9 rpg
F;Braxton Key;6-8;Fr.;9.4 ppg;5.5 rpg
F;Donta Hall;6-9;So.;5.6 ppg;5.5 rpg
Notes: Florida is 74-66 all-time against Alabama, but the Tide snapped UF’s 11-game win streak in the series with a 61-55 win in Gainesville last season. … Florida is shooting 38 percent from 3-point range (27-71) in SEC play and 35.5 percent from beyond the arc for the season. “Role identification has gotten a little bit better as it has probably with most teams as you get deeper into the season,” White said. “Certain guys (are) taking probably better shots for themselves than they were certainly in September's practices and carrying over into October and November.” … Florida senior forward Canyon Barry is averaging 17.5 points over his last two games and is scoring 11.8 points per game off the bench. … The Gators forced a combined 40 turnovers in wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Florida is 15-2 under White when opposing teams finish with 16 turnovers or more. … Alabama ranks second in the SEC in scoring defense at 61.1 points per game. … The Tide have strong rim protection inside from centers Donta Hall and Jimmie Hall, who have combined for 47 blocked shots. “Our fives (centers) have a big challenge ahead of them,” White said. “We have to be aggressive, but we have to be intelligent, especially on the road.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or email@example.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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