Florida basketball: KeVaughn Allen and Gators bounce back in big win over Auburn

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida basketball coach Mike White said he had his longest conversation yet with KeVaughn Allen earlier this week, encouraging the enigmatic junior guard to be aggressive after a scoreless game in which he attempted only 3 shots.

White wasn’t sure how the message was received, as Allen never gives away much.

And after Allen missed his first 5 shots from the field Saturday night, one had to wonder if he would go quiet the rest of this game as well.

Instead, Allen scored Florida’s final 9 points of the first half on three straight 3-pointers, including an incredible 3/4-court buzzer-beater. He finished with 24 points while sparking the Gators to a 72-66 win over SEC-leading No. 12 Auburn inside Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center.

But the game maintained its suspense until the end as the teams swapped the lead back and forth in the final minutes. Allen kept delivering in key moments, and Jalen Hudson ultimately took a perfect pass in the paint from Chris Chiozza for a layup and free throw to give the Gators’ a 3-point lead with 26.8 seconds on the clock.

The Gators (18-11, 9-7 SEC) closed it out from there to snap a three-game losing streak and had lost six of their previous eight conference games, badly needing a win to boost their NCAA tournament profile down the stretch.

Thanks to Allen’s highlight-reel heave, Florida went into halftime up 33-24 and led by as many as 14 points early in the second half.

But the Tigers (24-5, 12-4) battled all the way back to take the lead on a 3 from Mustapha Heron with 3:55 remaining. Hudson answered right back with a 3 for the Gators, and Jared Harper scored a layup for Auburn to tie it at 59-59.

A 3 from Desean Murray later gave the Tigers a 62-60 lead with 2:44 to go, but Allen struck again in a big spot, swishing a corner 3 to put the hosts up 63-62.

And he wasn’t finished.

Heron hit two free throws with 1:58 to go, as Auburn claimed a 64-63 lead, but Allen answered with a 3 from the other corner for a 66-64 Gators advantage.

After Hudson blocked a shot and Chiozza grabbed the loose ball, he was fouled and sent to the line with 51.8 second left. He missed both free throws, but Kevarrius Hayes appeared to save the ball out of bounds.

The refs ruled Hayes was out of bounds, but the replays on the video board showed him to be in. Even after a review, the call was upheld and Auburn got to the line at the other end for a 1 and 1 with 41.9 seconds to play.

Harper made both to tie it at 66-66, but Florida’s veterans came through on the other end with Chiozza’s sweet feed to Hudson for the layup and ensuing free throw to make it 69-66 with 26.8 on the clock.

Egor Koulechov helped seal it, hitting one of two free throws with 15.3 left after an Auburn miss, and Allen added two of his own to close out the win.

Allen’s 24 points marked his second-highest total of the season and came as an incredibly encouraging sign after he had not only been held scoreless Wednesday night at Tennessee, but he had scored 7 or less points in four of the past five games.

A preseason first-team All-SEC pick, he looked the part Saturday night. After missing his first five shots, Allen made his next six and finished 8 of 15 overall (and 6 of 10 from 3-point range)

Hudson finished with 19 points and redshirt freshman Dontay Bassett scored a career-best 12 points.

Check back for a full recap and postgame reaction.

The post Florida basketball: KeVaughn Allen and Gators bounce back in big win over Auburn appeared first on SEC Country.

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