Florida coach Mike White sent out a memo to UF’s student body over the weekend.
If you see junior guard KeVaughn Allen on campus, tell him to shoot.
Staying aggressive has been an issue for Allen throughout his UF career. But the shy, 6-foot-2 shooting guard followed up one of the worst performances as a Gator at Tennessee with one of his best, scoring a team-high 24 points in UF’s 72-66 win over Auburn last Saturday.
Now, the trick for Allen is to try to maintain that shot-hunting demeanor when Florida plays at Alabama on Tuesday night in another critical conference game down the stretch.
“Hopefully, his classmates have stepped up for him, as long as they’re Gator fans, of course,” White said Monday. “That’s one tactic. We’ll try any tactic. We’ll continue to challenge him. Challenge him during timeouts, during pre-game, challenge him again today in practice.”
Allen said he hasn’t received any urging from UF students yet. But a tactic that may have worked was a meeting last Thursday with White that included teammates Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes. After missing three shots to start the game against Auburn on Saturday night, Allen kept shooting, making 8 of his next 12 shots, including 6-of-10 3-point attempts.
“It made it better, yeah,” Allen said. “Just having them sit down with me with the meeting and just telling them basically what he told me in the couple of meetings we had before. Just to stay aggressive and keep shooting.”
One of the highlights against Auburn for Allen was a three-quarter court shot at the first-half buzzer that put the Gators up 33-24 at halftime. The shot was reminiscent of the 70-footer that former Gator forward Chandler Parsons made to beat North Carolina State in overtime in 2010. It also ranked No. 1 on ESPN’s top 10 plays on Saturday night.
“People have been sending me video about it,” Allen said. “I hadn’t really noticed that it was ESPN because I don’t watch TV at all. The only way I know is from people sending it to me.”
Certainly, the Gators could use a hot stretch from Allen to finish the regular season. A preseason, All-SEC first team selection, Allen’s inconsistency has mirrored UF’s. He’s shooting 34.2 percent from 3-point range this season, down from 37 percent last season. Florida has asked Allen to play more point guard this season and he’s been steady with the ball, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 61-33. Offensively, though, Allen has struggled away from the O’Connell Center, shooting just 28 percent from the field and 16 percent from 3-point range in road games.
Allen hasn’t reached double figures in scoring on the road since scoring 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting against Kentucky on Jan. 20.
“We’ve had certain games on the road where he’s just not as aggressive as we want him to be,” White said. “We’ve had that at home, as well, I just feel like we’ve had that more often away from home.”
Florida will be looking to avenge an 68-50 loss to Alabama at home on Feb. 3. In that matchup, the Tide held Florida to just seven points in the final 11 minutes and dominated UF physically, outrebounding the Gators 43-25. White showed players tape of the second half of the game again Sunday.
“A couple highlights — there weren’t many — and a few of the lowlights, which we had to condense,” White said.
Florida was able to bounce back from being manhandled at home against South Carolina by bullying the Gamecocks on the road in its second meeting between the two schools. White is hopeful the Gators can answer the bell in a similar fashion in their rematch with the Tide.
“We’ll continue to remind our guys that we’re capable when we’re playing at our highest possible intensity level,” White said. “It’s, I don’t know, five or six games that we’ve done it before. We continue to struggle with the consistency part of it, but we’ll need to play really, really hard to match their physicality and their length. Their prowess on the interior, both offensively and defensively, they’re just really good in the paint.”
Injury update: White said freshman forward Chase Johnson (concussion protocol) and freshman center Isaiah Stokes (knee) both won’t play this week. Both are eligible to redshirt this season. White said senior center John Egbunu went through a workout a few days ago and his knee swelled up on him again. “He’s disappointed, obviously,” White said. “We’re disappointed for him. He will not play at Alabama.”
Who: Florida Gators (18-11, 9-7 SEC) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12, 8-8 SEC)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G KeVaughn Allen;6-2;Jr.;11.2 ppg; 2.2 rpg
G Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;11.3 ppg;6.2 apg
G Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;13.7 ppg;6.7 rpg
F Keith Stone;6-8; RSo.;8.4 ppg;4.0 rpg
C Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; Jr.;5.2 ppg;5.1 rpg
ALABAMA PROBABLE STARTERS
G John Petty;6-5;Fr.;10.8 ppg;2.4 rpg
G Collin Sexton;6-3;Fr.;18.2 ppg;3.6 rpg
G Dazon Ingram;6-5;RSo.;10.0 ppg;5.6 rpg
F Braxton Key;6-7;So.;7.5 ppg;5.3 rpg
C Donta Hall,6-8;Jr.;11.1 ppg;7.1 rpg
Notes: Florida is 67-75 all-time against Alabama and 1-2 against the Tide under Mike White. Last season, Florida knocked off Alabama at Coleman Coliseum 80-67. … Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-4.2) while ranking second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3-1), third in steals (7.0) and third in 3-pointers made per game (9.0). … The Gators have been outrebounded in 9 of 16 SEC games this season. … Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza leads the SEC in assists at 6.2 per game. With 543 career assists, Chiozza is four shy of Erving Walker’s school record (547 assists). … Florida will be playing its final true road game of the season. The Gators are 4-4 in road games and have dropped two straight, at Tennessee and at Vanderbilt. … Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson is averaging a team-high 15 ppg. … Florida redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett is coming off scoring a career-high 12 points and grabbing six rebounds in UF’s 72-66 win Saturday against Auburn. … Alabama has lost three straight and is coming off a 76-73 home loss against Arkansas. The Tide are 6-2 at home this season. … UF’s eight quadrant one wins are tied for third-most in the nation, trailing only Kansas and North Carolina. … Florida is in a four-way tie for third place in the SEC with Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas. … Florida is just 39 of its last 68 from the free throw line, with Chiozza missing 8 of his last 9 free throw attempts.
— Kevin Brockway