Gators looking to get Allen on track

Junior guard gets another chance to break shooting slump when Gators face Clemson at OB Classic.

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Florida guard KeVaughn Allen has not played up to his productive self this season. [Timothy J. Gonzalez/Associated Press]

Last season, junior guard KeVaughn Allen emerged as Florida’s go-to scorer, a player capable of stringing together shots in big moments in big games.

But the 6-foot-2 Allen has gotten off to a rockier start this basketball season. Shots aren’t falling. Drives into traffic have been more forced. In short, Allen hasn’t looked like the All-SEC performer he was projected to be going into the season.

Certainly, there’s time for Allen to turn his fortunes around, beginning Saturday afternoon when Florida faces Clemson at the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. Allen is just 8 for his last 27 from the field over his last three games (2-13 from 3-point range) and was on the bench down the stretch last Saturday when Florida pulled off a 66-60 win over Cincinnati at the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J.

For the season, Allen is shooting 34.4 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from 3-point range, well below his career averages of 41.9 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc coming into his junior year.

“We’d like to get him going, but I don’t think he’s far off,” Florida coach Mike White said. “People ask me all the time, ‘What’s wrong with KeVaughn?’ He’s had some good practices. He’s handling the ball and makes good decisions at a high level. He has seven turnovers in nine games. He’s unselfish to a fault.”

Allen has taken on added responsibilities in backing up Chris Chiozza at point guard this season and has been steady with the ball with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 19-7. He’s also continued his improvement on defense with 11 steals and three blocked shots.

Scoring-wise, though, Allen has had a hard time finding a rhythm. The addition of transfer perimeter threats Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson were expected to open things up for Allen, but the North Little Rock, Ark., native is still trying to jell offensively with his two new teammates. Koulechov has taken a team-high 123 shot attempts this season, compared to 110 for Hudson and 90 for Allen.

“He’s got to get back in that aggressive mode,” White said. “He’s always been up and down with his level of offensive aggressiveness and, again, I think that’s part of him just being a really conscientious guy. I’ve got to do a better job of putting him in better positions. Again, in his defense, I think his number has been called on a little bit less because we have more perimeter threats offensively. He’s blended in, as some of these other guys have. But he’s going to have some big games for this year, there’s no doubt.”

Koulechov said teammates are telling Allen to stay aggressive.

“He’s a great teammate and he’ll get it going,” Koulechov said. “I’m confident that he will. He’s going to have one of those breakout games and he’ll get it going. He knows how important he is to us. He will step up.”

With defenses focusing more on Allen, Koulechov said it’s opened up opportunities for him and Hudson to get more open looks on the perimeter and driving lanes to the basket.

“Teams lock in on him and obviously don’t want to give up easy buckets,” Koulechov said. “But when you lock in on one guy, it opens things up for other guys like me, Jalen, Keith (Stone), whoever. That’s the beauty of it. When you play with great players, there’s a lot of things you can do.”

The Gators managed to get off to an explosive start offensively even with Allen’s early struggles, but have hit a scoring drought of late. Florida is averaging 63.7 points over its last three games and hasn’t scored more than 70 points since losing 87-84 to then-No. 1 Duke in the finals of the PK80 Tournament in Portland, Ore.

“I’m not sure we’re clicking offensively, hopefully, as well as we will in another month or two,” White said. “Part of that is (Allen) getting in a rhythm, all of us taking great shots and continuing to get our percentages up, and continuing to value the ball. That’s been our biggest strength, we’re really taking care of the basketball. We have to continue to get better on the offensive glass and have to continue to find more stuff going to the basket.”

Who: No. 22 Florida Gators (6-3) vs. Clemson Tigers (8-1)

When: 4:30 p.m. today

Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise.

TV: Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports 2 (national)

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS

G;KeVaughn Allen 6-2 So., 11.8  ppg; 2.8 rpg

G;Chris Chiozza 6-0  Sr., 11.8 ppg; 6.1 apg

G;Egor Koulechov 6-5  GSr., 16.1 ppg; 6.9 rpg

G;Jalen Hudson 6-6 RJr., 19.1 ppg; 4.2 rpg

C;Keith Stone 6-8  RSo., 5.9 ppg; 2.9 rpg

CLEMSON PROBABLE STARTERS

G;Gabe DeVoe 6-3 Sr., 10.9 ppg; 4.2 rpg

G;Shelton Mitchell 6-3  Jr., 12.9 ppg; 5.0 apg

G;Marcquise Reed 6-6 Jr., 13.8 ppg; 5.0 apg

F;Donte Grantham 6-8 Sr., 16.0 ppg; 6.2 rpg

F;Elijah Thomas 6-9 Jr., 12.1 ppg; 8.8 rpg

Notes: Florida is 9-9 all-time against Clemson, but the schools haven’t met since Dec. 30, 1957, a game Florida won 76-64. … Florida is 16-2 all-time in Orange Bowl Classic games and has won seven straight OB Classic contests. … The Gators rank second in the SEC in scoring offense (87.6 ppg), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4-1) and free throw percentage (77.0 percent). The Gators lead the SEC in turnover margin at plus-4.6. … Point guard Chris Chiozza is leading the SEC in assists at 6.1 per game and ranks ninth on UF’s all-time career assist list at 418. Chiozza is one assist shy of passing Scottie Wilbekin for 8th in UF’s all-time assist list. … Florida is 3-1 in neutral court games this season. The Gators are 0-2 against ACC opponents with losses to Duke and Florida State. … The game in Sunrise will be a homecoming of sorts for redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone, who is from nearby Deerfield Beach, and forward Egor Koulechov, who played two seasons at Sagemont Academy in nearby Weston. … All five of Clemson’s starters are averaging in double figures in scoring. … The Tigers are shooting 50.1 percent from the floor and 34.8 from 3-point range . … Clemson’s lone win against a Power Five conference opponent came against Ohio State in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, with its lone loss coming against Temple. “Unbelievably fast-paced in how they play,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said of Florida. “ About as fast as anybody I’ve seen in awhile. They shoot the ball exceptionally well from three, have multiple ball-handlers, guys who can really dribble and pass. There’s some similarity between the two teams in terms of both teams have four guys out on the floor that are making threes and can dribble it up and attack quickly and put pressure on defenses. So we’re excited about the opportunity. It’ll be a game where we’ll have to play extremely well to win.”

— Kevin Brockway

 

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