Shooting show: Gators make 18 3-pointers to rally past Aggies

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Florida senior guard KeVaughn Allen puts up two Tuesday against Texas A&M in the first half. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

Florida played about as poorly as it could defensively in a first half to forget Tuesday night.

The second half, well, it was a show to remember.

The Gators locked down defensively and guards KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke set a UF record with the most threes by a twosome in school history (15), as Florida rallied from 13 down to beat Texas A&M 81-72.

“That was the worst defense we played all year,” said Allen. ‘We just had to pick it up.”

A&M led 46-33 at the half after making 7-of-11 threes. But the second half was a two-man show by the home team in Exactech Arena as 9,063 watched.

Allen finished the game with 31 points and Locke with 27 as Florida (11-7, 3-3 in the SEC) set an O’Connell Center record with 18 3-point baskets.

Allen and Locke combined to make 15-of-23 from beyond the arc and Allen’s eight makes tied a UF record for the arena.

Florida hadn’t had a player score 20 points all season, the only team in the country with that distinction. On Tuesday night, the Gators had two. The rest of the UF team had only 23 points in the game.

“The shots were just going in,” said Locke. “Everything was falling for me. I tried to pick the guys up at halftime because I knew we needed to get it going.”

Wendell Mitchell led the Aggies (7-10, 1-5) with 25 points, 17 in the first half.

Florida scored 48 points in the second half with the two guards scoring 27 of those points.

“What a strange game,” said Florida coach Mike White. “Their guards were really good in the first half. Our defensive energy was better in the second half.

“We hit a bunch of jump shots. I wish we would every night.”

Despite the three-point barrages by both sides, one of the biggest baskets came from close range. With a minute left in the game, freshman Keyontae Johnson put back a missed shot to give Florida a seven-point lead.

“That was big,” White said. “Keyontae did some nice things — five offensive rebounds, zero turnovers.”

For Allen, it was another aggressive offensive performance by a senior who sometimes has trouble being assertive. Allen is now averaging 17.8 points in six SEC games.

“Someone said in the locker room, it seems like he’s been here in eight years,” White said. “You go through ups and downs. It was nice to see him have fun out there.

“His confidence level is high right now.”

UF freshman Andrew Nembhard had 11 assists, although he and Allen combined for 10 turnovers.

Florida’s usually-stellar defense was riddled by A&M in the early going as the Aggies jumped out to a 31-21 lead by making 5-of-7 three-point shots. A&M came into the game last in the SEC shooting 25.5 percent on threes.

When Mitchell hit a rainbow three just before the halftime buzzer, the Aggies’ lead had grown to 13, the biggest deficit Florida has faced this season. The 46 points were more points than the Aggies had scored in their last game, a loss to Missouri.

“Beyond frustrated,” White said. “I was a little heated (at halftime). Uncharacteristic. In the warm-ups it had a feel and you can see it coming. You can’t be a high-level team and fluctuate with your energy and competitiveness.”

But in the second half, the Aggies made only 2-of-11 threes and Florida limited A&M to 26 points.

“Florida was more aggressive in the second half,” said A&M coach Billy Kennedy. “And we played too much 1-on-1 basketball. Obviously, we struggled with KeVaughn Allen. He played like a senior.”

Allen and Locke also made all five of their free throw attempts in a game that had few fouls called (22 for both teams).

The Gators travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to face TCU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge at noon EST Saturday. TCU is 13-4 heading into a home game against Texas tonight.

FLORIDA 81, TEXAS A&M 72
TEXAS A&M (7-10)

Mekowulu 1-4 0-0 2, Mitchell 9-16 0-0 25, Chandler 7-8 0-0 15, Starks 3-13 4-6 10, Flagg 2-8 3-4 7, Nebo 4-4 0-0 8, J.Walker 1-2 0-0 2, Collins 0-0 0-0 0, Mahan 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 28-59 7-10 72.

FLORIDA (11-7)

K.Johnson 1-3 0-0 2, Hayes 4-7 0-0 8, Allen 10-16 3-3 31, Nembhard 1-7 0-0 3, Locke 9-18 2-2 27, Stokes 1-1 0-0 2, Bassett 0-0 0-0 0, Okauru 0-1 0-0 0, Ballard 0-2 0-0 0, Hudson 3-7 0-0 8. Totals 29-62 5-5 81.

Halftime_Texas A&M 46-33. 3-Point Goals_Texas A&M 9-22 (Mitchell 7-9, Chandler 1-2, Mahan 1-4, J.Walker 0-1, Flagg 0-2, Starks 0-4), Florida 18-37 (Allen 8-10, Locke 7-13, Hudson 2-5, Nembhard 1-6, K.Johnson 0-1, Ballard 0-2). Fouled Out_Chandler. Rebounds_Texas A&M 25 (Nebo 9), Florida 34 (K.Johnson 9). Assists_Texas A&M 14 (Starks 6), Florida 16 (Nembhard 11). Total Fouls_Texas A&M 12, Florida 10.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Great second half by the Gators!! Great energy, great shooting and great defense. Our guys wore A&M down. So glad to see Allen finally have the game he is so capable of and Locke dropping 27. We are gonna live and die the rest of the way by the outside shot/3 pointer and if Allen and Locke can stay hot, we hopefully can win a bunch down the stretch. Congrats guys, a very well deserved win.

  2. Very entertaining game with a second half comeback for the ages. Just think of the scoring capability if Hudson heats back up? Nembhard continues to impress with point guard and assist ability far beyond his tender freshman years.

    I couldn’t be happier for Allen. He brings 100% to Gator hoops everyday. He’s only scored more at Florida once, to beat Wisconsin on the road. He’s never poured thirty or more at home and in an SEC game. Oh, and by the way, DON’T put that headband back on Kevaughn!

  3. Two senior All-Star performances in a row from Allen. Definitely the team leader. And I hope Locke stays a Gator just as long. The kid can shoot lights out and he’s just getting cranked up. Can you imagine how good he’ll be three years from now? He says he’s learning good stuff while playing on the court with Allen and it shows. Now, like Mtn2top said, just think if Hudson heats back up. UF may be challenged up front, but the backcourt’s picking up the slack on offense. It’ll be hard to keep that up, especially against top-tier SEC teams, but it’s fun to watch them raining down those 3s like they have been lately. Go 🐊s!

  4. Glad to see Allen getting his groove back since conference play began. Glad to see him with a big smile. Shooting 80% from long range will do that. Locke has been a consistent shooter all year and had a nice game as well. Pleasantly surprised to see KJ lead the team with rebounds. Hudson also had a decent shooting night in only 17 minutes. I missed the first half and glad I did. The second half was fun to watch.

    • I don’t think we really appreciate how important it is to have a buddy. With two aces from deep, whom does the opposing team concentrate on? If they can stay on track, this should help for the rest of the season.

      I have to admit, I pretty much game up at halftime. I was disgusted. Glad though that I stuck with it to witness the second half. Whew, that was awesome.

    • Allen had a great game, the kind of game he’s capable of. The trouble is he only has a game like this maybe twice a year…just often enough to get everyone excited and thinking he’s finally coming around and then he disappears for 10 games. Never could figure that out. But it sure was fun watching him and Locke dropping 3s like they were layups last night.

  5. Any team that lives by the 3 will inevitably die by it at times. There will be games when the jump shot does not fall, even for the best of shooters. Fortunately, the Gators rely on a tough defense, which can be the difference when the shots aren’t falling.

    Being able to finish at the rim would also help. This team will probably never be strong in that area, but they can do better. I hope that we’ll see improvement from Johnson, Basset, and Stokes.

    I believe that this team still has a chance to be pretty good (not great), and maybe the second half of this game was a sign that they have taken a step in that direction. They certainly showed what they can do when they are playing up to their potential.

  6. That’s funny josephblough! (above). But it was a must win at home, so congrats Gators!
    And now Florida Basketball can make this season special. Because, ”don’t look now, but here comes the proverbial gauntlet.” T.C.U. in Texas. Ole Miss in Hogtown, little Blue (U.K.) in Hogtown, Auburn at A.U., and Tennessee in Knoxville. Whomp, there it is, Gators! Just do it, and make your season special! Go Gators!

  7. It’s always fun to win, but the problem is that there’s not a backup plan for the scenario of “what if we have a bad night shooting the ball”. To be honest, aTm is an awful basketball team, by far the worst in the SEC. Winning by 9 is acceptable, but it shouldn’t take an unconscious 2nd half by 2 3-point sharpshooters, just to pull away late against aTm. If we continue to get this effort from Allen the rest of the season though, we’ll make some promising steps forward, but unless we start playing way, way better in all aspects of the offense, Allen will very unfortunately finish his career in the NIT.

    • I think the backup plan is good defense to create turnovers and get more shots to try to offset a poor shooting percentage. I suppose you could say that should be part of Plan A as well, and that’s true, but with this team, pounding it into the paint can’t be your Plan B. The inside game can be helped by transition and slashing to the basket, but Hudson is the key to that. He has the length to finish at the rim that Allen lacks. Maybe Stokes can eventually provide a bit of a post-up game, but for the most part, that’s non-existent with this team. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I just hope a healthy Stokes and Gak, with a more experienced KJ and Bassett, and the 4* Payne will improve the inside game significantly next season.

  8. This quote is the crux of the matter:

    “Beyond frustrated,” White said. “I was a little heated (at halftime). Uncharacteristic.”

    I have often thought that this team needs a good kick in the butt. Maybe this approach should be MORE “characteristic” for this team?

  9. Congrats to the team on the come back win last night, and all of the exciting play in the second half as well…

    BUT (and there’s the obligatory “but” we all dread)… This was an AWFUL A&M team with little bench depth that had scored only 43 in it’s last game I believe. To think they got up 13 on us at home is really concerning.

    This team still needs a serious inside presense in the paint and needs to be more balanced on offense, and far more consistent on defense.

    These kinds of wins are fun and exciting, but as soon as we start playing quality, and even elite teams, we have to be able to maintain that intensity. This team will only go as far as it’s coaching will take them.

  10. At this point, every game left on the schedule should be considered a “must” game if they want to make the NCAA tourney. Last night was a good win in the sense that they came back from a double digit deficit. With 3 scholarship front court players now lost for the season (C. Johnson, Gak, and Stone), it will need to be an “All hands on deck”effort from the rest. May need to play Hudson more minutes to add at least one more scorer to the Allen / Locke combo, and Nembhart to be more assertive. Might be fun to watch! Let’s keep it going boys.