After receiving the ball on an offensive rebound, Florida forward Keith Stone scored an easy layup with six seconds left in Saturday’s 78-72 loss against Ole Miss.
For Florida, it was too late to overcome its five-point deficit.
But for Stone, the layup capped off a career high 23-point performance, one that highlights a recent four-game stretch of solid play from the redshirt sophomore.
“For about a month now, he’s just been consistently very good in practice,” UF coach Mike White said on Tuesday, “and we’re seeing it more and more in games.”
Stone has been one of the Gators (12-5, 4-1 SEC) biggest contributors as of late. Against Texas A&M on Jan. 2, he scored 18 points, a career high at the time, and shot 50 percent from the field. His biggest contribution in the win came from the three-point line, where he made four shots on six attempts.
Over UF’s next two games — wins against Missouri and Mississippi State — Stone’s scoring surge continued. Over those two outings, he scored 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting and went 3-of-8 from beyond the arc.
And in the Ole Miss loss, Stone played the best offensive game of his career. Aside from dropping 23 points — the first 20-point game of his career — he reached the free-throw line 18 times, the most attempts since Joakim Noah shot 22 on March 1, 2006. Stone made 13 of his attempts, the most since teammate KeVaughn Allen made 13 on Feb. 21, 2017.
“Keith is still young in his development,” White said after the Ole Miss game. “He’s going to be a really good player. He’s really working hard lately.”
Things weren’t always so easy for Stone this season. In Florida’s first 13 games, he averaged 5.8 points per game on 37 percent shooting from the field.
It wasn’t until a meeting with White that he started finding his rhythm on offense.
“He told me simple things to do,” Stone said. “It don’t matter how many points you score, what you do. Just go out there, have fun and play.”
The troubles Stone had earlier this season are disappearing. His confidence is rising and it has shown in conference play.
Leaving his shooting woes behind in 2017, the start of 2018 has seen the rise of a different Stone. One that White believes is slowly emerging from his comfort zone and becoming more of a leader on the court.
“Sometimes, just by talking and leading and being infectious and thinking about your teammates can get you going,” White said. “Keith has been a good example of that.”