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.
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.